Matt Damon at Save Our Schools Rally

Matt Damon spoke  on July 30, 2011 in Washington DC at the Save Our Schools march.   I’ll post the text of his speech below, as if we need more reasons to love this man!

I flew overnight from Vancouver to be with you today.  I landed in New York a few hours ago and caught a flight down here because I needed to tell you all in person that I think you’re awesome.

I was raised by a teacher.  My mother is a professor of early childhood education.  And from the time I went to kindergarten through my senior year in high school, I went to public schools.  I wouldn’t trade that education and experience for anything.

I had incredible teachers.  As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself — my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity — all come from how I was parented and taught.

And none of these qualities that I’ve just mentioned — none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success — none of these qualities that make me who I am … can be tested.

 I said before that I had incredible teachers.  And that’s true.  But it’s more than that.  My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me.  Their time wasn’t taken up with a bunch of test prep — this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn’t promote real learning.  No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle.  They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential.  They were allowed to be teachers.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I did have a brush with standardized tests at one point.  I remember because my mom went to the principal’s office and said,  ‘My kid ain’t taking that.  It’s stupid, it won’t tell you anything and it’ll just make him nervous.’  That was in the ’70s when you could talk like that.

 I shudder to think that these tests are being used today to control where funding goes.

I don’t know where I would be today if my teachers’ job security was based on how I performed on some standardized test.  If their very survival as teachers was based on whether I actually fell in love with the process of learning but rather if I could fill in the right bubble on a test.  If they had to spend most of their time desperately drilling us and less time encouraging creativity and original ideas; less time knowing who we were, seeing our strengths and helping us realize our talents.

I honestly don’t know where I’d be today if that was the type of education I had.  I sure as hell wouldn’t be here.  I do know that.

This has been a horrible decade for teachers.  I can’t imagine how demoralized you must feel.  But I came here today to deliver an important message to you:  As I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up.  And I’m not alone.  There are millions of people just like me.

So the next time you’re feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated,  or at the end of your rope;  the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called “overpaid;”  the next time you encounter some simple-minded,  punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything. … Please know that there are millions of us behind you.  You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt.  We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back.

Posted in Education Policy and Reform by Corey Green @ Jul 31, 2011

 

Figurative Language with Taylor Swift: Mean

This is Part 4 of a series about Fun with Literacy: Taylor Swift lyrics

My students and I have enjoyed analyzing Taylor’s songs for literary techniques and figurative language. This song has special meaning to a lot of people because it’s about being picked on and bullied. You’ll see how the catchy chorus provides an empowering message. As usual, telling detail, clever rhymes and storytelling flair help listeners connect emotionally to the song.

I hope you enjoy my literary analysis of the song “Mean” by Taylor Swift from her album Speak Now.

For Taylor’s story behind the song, click here.

Posted in Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Jul 29, 2011

 

Beat Summer Math Slide: Estimating

Students experience summer slide in every subject.  Here are some fun tips for helping your child with a difficult topic: estimating.

By estimating, I mean two different skills.  One is estimating measurements.  The other is using rounding to estimate an answer to a problem.  (526 +375 = about 900 if you round to the nearest hundred)

Fun with a tape measure*:  Simply give your kids a tape measure and challenge them to hone their estimating skills.  About how long is your kitchen?  How far to the sidewalk?  Is the length of your driveway closer to 10, 20 or 100 feet?  Should you measure the height of your cat in inches, feet or yards?  This is a pleasant way to spend a summer afternoon.

If your kids and their friends are enterprising, they could each make up their own challenges, writing little worksheets with measuring tasks.  It’s like playing school, but more active.

Fun with a scale: This is a lot like Fun with a Tape Measure, but with measurements of weight.  Your child can develop a sense of what things weigh.  How much does cereal weigh?  Dishes?  The family dog?  A book?

Shopping estimation: Running errands really does provide lots of ways to incorporate math.  Simply ask little word problems as you go.  If I buy this item for $2.95 and that item for $4.25, about how much will I spend?  Once your child is good at answering this type of question, challenge her to figure the rough amount of change from a nice round figure like $10.

*Fun with whatever—a tongue-in-cheek way to make any task fun.  Sort of.  It helps!   Read the blog post for classroom examples.

Posted in Academics,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Jul 27, 2011

 

Figurative Language with Taylor Swift: Hey Stephen

This is Part 3 of a series about Fun with Literacy: Taylor Swift lyrics

My students memorize dozens of reading vocabulary terms and then use this knowledge to analyze what they read. When I teach figurative language and literary techniques, I find it’s important to give students pop culture examples so they don’t think that good writing is limited to that which was written hundreds of years ago.

There’s a reason Taylor Swift is a star—the girl writes catchy songs that elicit emotional response. My students and I have enjoyed analyzing how she does it.

“Hey, Stephen” is probably my favorite Taylor Swift song. As we analyzed it, I saw why. It captures a moment very well (Taylor’s crush on a boy named Stephen), telling details elicit emotional response and make it easy to identify, and the liberal use of internal rhyme keeps the song swaying along.

I hope you enjoy my literary analysis of the song “Hey, Stephen” by Taylor Swift from her album Fearless as much as I’ve enjoyed this incredibly catchy song.

For Taylor’s story behind the song, click here

Posted in Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Jul 22, 2011

 

Beat Summer Math Slide: Rounding Numbers

We all know that visits to the library are an easy way to combat summer reading slide.  Keeping math skills from sliding requires a little more effort.  I’ve taught many grades, and I can say that one skill most students haven’t mastered is ROUNDING!

Every grade I’ve taught has tackled rounding early in the school year.  I think it’s supposed to be quick-and-easy review.  Well, it isn’t.  It’s a math grade killer.

If a National Board Certified Teacher is constantly surprised that kids struggle with rounding, how is a parent supposed to know?  I really don’t see how you would, so this blog post serves as a public service announcement for Rounding Awareness.

Even now, having developed many ways to teach this skill, I still don’t understand what’s so hard about rounding.  I mean, take 53.  Is it closer to 50 or 60?  Closer to 50.  How hard is that?  Very, for most students.  Don’t get them started on rounding 50,453 to the nearest tens place.  They just fall apart.

As a parent, it really helps if you’re mindful of teaching rounding in daily life.

Examples:

  1. This gum costs 63 cents.  Is that closer to 60 or 70 cents?
     
  2. I want to buy 5 drinks at the fast food restaurant.  They’re each $1.19.  Is $1.19 closer to $1 or $2?  About how much will I spend?
     
  3. This recipe calls for 1 2/3 cup of flour.  Is that closer to one cup or two?
     
  4. Look, this movie made $83 million at the box office over the weekend.  What a blockbuster!  Is 83 closer to 80 or 90?
      
  5. This meal costs $5.85.  Is $5.85 closer to $5 or $6?

A few rounding worksheets would be really helpful.  I recommend you print them from the rounding section on Dad’s Worksheets and/or Math-aids.com.  The worksheets help with something incidental real-world rounding doesn’t address: taking the same number and rounding it to the nearest tens, hundreds or thousands place.  For that skill, it really helps kids to see the number in black and white.

Your child can practice rounding on computer games.  Click here for a site with some fun games.  They are all good; my students love Rounding Sharks.

A visual technique for teaching rounding: The Rounding Hill.  As an example of rounding to the nearest 10,  this diagram shows why you round up when the ones digit is 5 or more.  Many kids think that 5 could go either way because they mistakenly believe 5 is exactly in the middle.  The Rounding Hill shows that there is no middle number, as there are 5 numbers on either side of the hill.  The Rounding Hill really helps most students, and I often see them drawing this diagram on their math tests to serve as a reference point.

Posted in Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Jul 20, 2011

 

Think Inside the Box

My latest shipment from The Great Courses, producer of audio and videotaped lecture series, prompted me to write this post.  They came up with an innovative marketing/thought provoking technique: Think Inside the Box.

As you can see from this picture, the inside of the box is full of facts and anecdotes from various lecture series.

“Rossini wrote all of his operas before he turned 37, and then he retired.  He started at the age of 18, and 19 years later he had written 35 operas before he put down his pen forever.”  –How to Listen to and Understand Opera

“During his secret negotiations with Zhou Enlai in Beijing in 1971, Henry Kissinger wore an oversized, borrowed shirt with a label that said “Made in Taiwan.” –The Fall and Rise of China

“Beethoven’s favorite foods were oysters, blood sausage, and head cheese.”—The String Quartets of Beethoven

“In the late 1800s Georg Cantor proved mathematically that there can be more than one infinity, an idea that seems conceptually impossible.  He showed that there are infinite infinities.”—Zero to Infinity: A History of Numbers

I developed an interest in The Great Courses when I bought my parents a lecture series about the Louvre since they were interested in visiting Paris.  I ended up watching the course myself and have ordered many more since then.  Between the cool anecdotes in the shipment box and the constant supply of enticing new catalogues, I just keep ordering and learning!

I mostly like the arts-based Great Courses, but you might like the business, scientific, mathematical, philosophical, historical, or health-themed lecture series.  My favorite course is The Genius of Michelangelo—truly fascinating whether you have a passing or significant interest in the man.  I’ve ordered several surveys of art and have branched out to Understanding the Human Factor: Life and Its Impact (about the implications of man’s transition from hunting and gathering to the domestication of plants and animals) and Myth in Human History (a lot easier to explain).

If you want to learn but don’t like dealing with papers, commutes and professional development credit, The Great Courses are for you.  They make daily tasks more fun and educational.  I actually look forward to laundry and ironing because it’s such a good time to watch a course.  I imagine that an audio course would be nice to listen to on a summertime cross-country car trip or just bumper-to-bumper traffic.

I am not affiliated with The Great Courses, except as a satisfied customer.  I don’t receive any benefit from this post.  I just wanted to tell you about how these courses enhance a lifelong-learner lifestyle.

P.S. About pricing of The Great Courses:  Courses go on sale all the time, so watch for sales.  If you like a course but it’s three to five hundred dollars, just wait for it to go on sale.  Once you buy a course, they tell you about all the sales and send you coupons.  The courses are more affordable than you’d think.

Posted in Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jul 15, 2011

 

Beat Summer Slide: Where to Buy Workbooks

Best Multiplication Workbook EVER!Despite what you may hear, I still believe that worksheets are fun and educational.  They’re efficient and give a nice sense of accomplishment.  Doing worksheets for a student is kind of like doing calisthenics for a Marine.  It’s just something you do.  You know it’s beneficial, you enjoy it, and you don’t question it.

You know the great feeling of opening a brand-new box of crayons?  That’s how a lot of kids feel about a brand-new workbook.  You can hear the binding crack as you open it.  The pages smell like paper and ink and promise.  This workbook hasn’t been messed up yet, there are no doodles and ripped pages, and every sheet offers the promise of a nice fat A+.

Lots of kids really would welcome a summer workbook.  You can buy them at teaching stores like Lakeshore Learning, office stores, discount stores like Walmart and Target, dollar stores, grocery stores, book stores (Barnes & Noble has a large workbook section near kids’ books), club stores like Sam’s Club and Costco, and drugstores.  Once your eyes are opened, you’ll start seeing workbooks everywhere.

Here are some recommendations:

Spectrum series: they have a workbook for every subject and grade level.  The primary level Little Critter series are the most fun.  Click here to learn about the wonders of Little Critter Reading, a workbook so great that I won a grant to buy a copy for each of my students.

Evan-Moor also creates workbooks for every subject.  They have a great poetry series, and their fiction and nonfiction workbooks are both educational and interesting.  The science workbooks are fun because they teach nonfiction reading skills and science, a topic that is now taught mostly through activities, so kids don’t have much actual science knowledge like you’d get from a book.  Teachers love the Daily Math Practice and Daily Language Review books.  I also like Daily Paragraph Editing, but most kids have trouble with it since grammar isn’t taught explicitly anymore.

Brain Quest workbooks cover all subjects for one grade.  This is a good all-summer-long review/preview of everything.

Scholastic Success With…is similar to Brain Quest and covers all subjects for one grade.

Summer Bridge Activities is another good review/preview book and is available at teaching stores.

And, of course, Best Multiplication Workbook EVER! is great for all you math buffs.   It covers multiplication, from learning the facts to mastering long multiplication and word problems.

Posted in Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Jul 13, 2011

 

Figurative Language with Taylor Swift: Love Story

This is Part 2 of a series about Fun with Literacy: Taylor Swift lyrics

“Love Story” is one of Taylor’s most popular songs. When I taught this to my class as part of a figurative language lesson, I set off a surprising discussion that perfectly illustrated children’s moral development.

In the song, Taylor compares her forbidden love with Romeo and Juliet. As part of a discussion of how allusion can add depth to writing, I told them the story. Boy, was I surprised when my third graders had zero sympathy for Romeo. He killed Tybalt! That made Romeo a bad guy. Doesn’t matter that Tybalt killed Mercutio. Romeo was bad and deserved all that happens to him. End of story. Nothing could change my students’ opinion.

I had never thought of the story this way before, but I thought you would be interested in their logic and moral reasoning.

Here is my literary analysis of the song “Love Story” by Taylor Swift from her album Fearless. It’s very good for teaching students how to recognize literary techniques in popular entertainment.

–For Taylor’s story-behind-the-song, click here.

Posted in Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Jul 8, 2011

 

Beat Summer Math Slide: Place value

If you can keep your child’s reading and math skills sharp this summer, you’ll both reap the rewards for all of next school year—and every year to come.

Place value is a biggie in math education.  All other math concepts depend on it.  Most children have a hard time with place value.  They do all right with tens and ones, but start to crumple as the numbers get bigger.  Here are some fun computer games to help your youngster sharpen those place value skills.

Toon University: Answer the place value question, then play an old-style arcade game to celebrate correct answers.  3 levels. 

Base Ten Blocks: These are familiar teaching tools to your child, if not you.  Ironically enough, it’s really important to practice with them because this teaching tool, the base ten block, is now an assessment tool.  Standardized tests ask questions about them like you’re supposed to know what they are.  I always wonder what international students think of this.  Anyway, it’s a fun game, although I turn the sound off because I find the music stressful.

Shark Pool Place Value Game: You look at the number of blocks, then select the written number that matches.  If you guess incorrectly, a shark takes a bite out of your surfboard.  This game uses regular blocks, not place value blocks.  Your child will become more adept at quickly subtracting from 10—you see a line of 10 blocks and a line next to it with 2 fewer blocks—that’s 18.

Lots of cool games in one place: These are nice because a variety of numbers are represented.  Your child can practice with tens and ones or hundred thousands, depending on the game.  My class loves this site.

Posted in Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Jul 6, 2011

 

The Second of July “the most memorable epoch in the history of America”

I always imagine John Adams as the nerdy know-it-all of the Founding Fathers, the guy who was never quite cool*. Nothing illustrates this so well as his earnest prediction that July 2nd was gonna be a big day:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”— July 3, 1776 letter to Abigail

Americans celebrate the date on the document, not the date the resolution was approved in a closed session of Congress. We all know that we’ll be partying on the Fourth. Let’s take the Second to do our homework and learn a little about the holiday.

Because the Census Bureau is all about the fun: peruse their Fun Facts about the Fourth of July. I liked their comparison of who will be celebrating in the USA: over 311 million now versus 2.5 million then. Also, did you know that more than 1 in 4 hot dogs consumed on the Fourth of July originated from Iowa?

View the Declaration of Independence from the Archives web site.

Read John Adams’ letter describing the 1777 Fourth of July celebration.

That treasure trove of Internet research, Wikipedia, has a bom-diggety Fourth of July page that’s a lot of fun.

*My basis for this assumption: the “Sit Down, John!” number from the musical 1776 . This is such a fun movie. I get a kick out of watching Gwyneth’s mom as Martha Jefferson. There are powerful moments, too. The best is “Molasses to Rum to Slaves.” (Note: according to an Amazon review, this song is not in the director’s cut DVD.)

Posted in Academics by Corey Green @ Jul 2, 2011