AR Challenge: March 2, 2012

Read the Most from Coast to Coast!

Here is a neat idea for celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2.  Help set a record for Accelerated Reader quiz taking!

Renaissance Learning is sponsoring the program and offering free kits for teachers.  Click here to register your class and claim your planning kit which includes a poster, student bookmarks, and downloadable support materials.  Register by February 14th to ensure that you receive your materials on time. Get event information here.

For extra fun, all participants will be registered for daylong prize drawings.  You could win an iPad, a signed copy of a book from the popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” book series by Jeff Kinney, and more.

Teaching Tips

Get ready!  Have students set goals or make book recommendations to each other.  Check out stacks of books from the school library so kids have plenty to read.  If you teach at a school where students have home libraries, ask kids to bring in books to share.

Prepare for state testing!  If March 2 is near your state testing window, you might want to challenge your students to read NONFICTION on March 2nd.  It’s excellent preparation for the test and corrects an imbalance since most students tend to read much more fiction than nonfiction.  If all day of nonfiction is too much for your gang, set a timeframe during which your class reads only nonfiction.  The students will get into it.

Make a day of it!  Set up blankets, have snacks, make forts, and read as much as you can!   It doesn’t all have to be silent reading.  The kids can read in pairs.  Parents can read to the class.  You can read to the class.

Fun data analysis!  Use AR’s reports to show your kids how much they accomplished.

> Print up a word count for your students the day before the event and compare it to their word count after the event.
> Compare class points earned before and after the event.
> See how much fiction versus nonfiction you read during the event.
> Break your class into teams on AR and see which team can read the most.
> Use the quizzes taken report to see which books were most popular that day.

Comments Off on AR Challenge: March 2, 2012
Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR) by Corey Green @ Jan 31, 2012

 

Red Tails: The Tuskegee Airmen (Part 4)

Part four: the Smithsonian helps you teach about the Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American aerial combat unit.  Deployed in Europe during WWII, they painted the tails of their planes red and became known as the Red Tails.  To the Americans, they were the Red Tail Angels.  To the Germans, they were the Red Tail Devils.  To all of us, they are heroes who sought a Double Victory: victory in the war abroad and victory over prejudice, segregation and Jim Crow laws at home.

This is part four of a series about the Tuskegee Airmen to coordinate with the January 20 release of Red Tails, the Lucasfilm action movie.  Go see it!

The Smithsonian’s National Air and SpaceMuseum created a 50 page teacher’s guide about African American Pioneers in Aviation (pdf).  It is every bit as outstanding as you’d expect a Smithsonian publication to be.  You will love the detailed biographies, helpful lesson plans, ready-made worksheets, and primary sources.

(Remind your students that the Tuskegee Airmen came to the rescue in the movie Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian)

No Tuskegee Airmen lesson could be complete without a lesson about the pilot shown in the photo above: Benjamin O. Davis Jr.  He was the first African-American general in the U.S. Air Force, son of the first African-American general in the U.S. Army.

Benjamin O. Davis Jr. was the first African American to graduate from West Point in the 20th century.  During his four years at West Point, he was completely ostracized by his classmates.  He never had a roommate.  He ate by himself.  Fellow cadets only spoke to him when official duty made it necessary.

It was designed to make me buckle, but I refused to buckle. They didn’t understand that I was going to stay there, and I was going to graduate. I was not missing anything by not associating with them. They were missing a great deal by not knowing me.”—Benjamin O. Davis Jr.

Benjamin O. Davis Jr.’s leadership was invaluable to the Tuskegee Airmen.  When he led the 332nd Fighter Group in their mission as fighter escort pilots protecting bombers, he insisted that they stay with their bombers at all times, at all costs.  The Tuskegee Airmen never lost a bomber and won the admiration of American bomber crews and the German pilots who flew against them. Of Davis, a Tuskegee Airman said “it was because of the discipline he exacted that we were able to make the record we did.”

Benjamin O. Davis Jr. knew a thing or two about unit pride and public relations.  He thought of painting the tails of their P-51 Mustangs red so the bomber groups would know who was escorting them. Read Benjamin O. Davis Jr., American : An Autobiography

This past weekend, I was excited to meet Tuskegee Airmen in an event to honor their legacy.  I was thrilled to pose for pictures with three Tuskegee Airmen.  I am posting a picture for each entry in this miniseries.  This photo is Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Asa Herring and me.  (The photo is a true snapshot—in my mind I was exactly next to Lt. Col. Herring and in the photo I block him.  Sorry.)

Asa Herring graduated from high school at 16 and passed the U.S. Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet written examination at age 17.  He had to wait until he was 18 before he could be inducted and begin flight training.  During his 22 years of military service, Asa served in England, Korea, Germany, Vietnam, and other temporary assignments worldwide. He was the first Black Squadron Commander at Luke Air Force Base*, Arizona, where he trained pilots in the F-104G Advanced Jet Fighter Gunnery Program. He was officially appointed an honorary Command Pilot in the German Luftwaffe.  Click to read a fact sheet about Lt. Col. Herring, provided by Luke AFB.

*Incidentally, Luke AFB is home of the Emerald Knights, one of my dad’s old squadrons and the one I remember most clearly.  They were based at Homestead AFB near Miami when my dad flew with them.  Visit my about the author page and scroll down to see a photo of my dad’s last flight.

Tuskegee Airmen, Part 1Tuskegee Airmen, Part 2
Tuskegee Airmen, Part 3Tuskegee Airmen, Part 4

Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jan 24, 2012

 

Red Tails: The Tuskegee Airmen (Part 3)

Part three:  A glowing review of Red Tails, the new George Lucas movie

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American aerial combat unit. Deployed in Europe during WWII, they painted the tails of their planes red and became known as the Red Tails. To the Americans, they were the Red Tail Angels. To the Germans, they were the Red Tail Devils. To all of us, they are heroes who sought a Double Victory: victory in the war abroad and victory over prejudice, segregation and Jim Crow laws at home.

This is part three of a planned four-part series about the Tuskegee Airmen to coordinate with the January 20 release of Red Tails, the Lucasfilm action movie.  I just got back from the movie and I feel that I MUST write about it.

Red Tails is an awesome movie!  The special effects are amazing—you really feel like you’re in the P-51 Mustangs with the Red Tails.  The dogfighting sequences make you think of Top Gun and Star Wars.  I read that George Lucas spent three years getting the action sequences just right, and it was worth the time and expense.  Red Tails is very, very generous with exciting action sequences.  There are more in this movie than any other aerial combat movie I’ve ever seen, which makes Red Tails the coolest dogfighting movie ever, imho.

The exploits shown in Red Tails are so amazing that they are hard to believe.  I heard fellow theater goers wondering aloud about whether the Red Tails really sank a destroyer.  Yes, they did!  In 1944,  Lt. Gwynn Pierson, Lt. Windell Pruitt and four other Tuskegee Airmen attacked a German Destroyer in 1944.  Accurate machine gun fire hit the powder magazine and sank the ship, and Pierson and Pruitt are credited with the destruction of an enemy ship using only machine gun fire.  You can read about it here.

I also heard people wondering if the Tuskegee Airmen really shot down German jets.  Yes, they did!  It happened a lot like in the movie, on their longest escort mission all the way to Berlin.  Charles Brantley, Earl Laneand Roscoe Brown shot down German jets over Berlin that day, earning the 332nd Fighter Group a Distinguished Unit Citation. Read about it here.  That mission was led by Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., commander of the Tuskegee Airmen.  Terrence Howard’s character was clearly based on this remarkable man.  I will write more about Benjamin O. Davis Jr. in Post Four, which also includes the last of the pictures I took with Tuskegee Airmen.

The last thing I heard people wonder about was whether it was realistic for a Tuskegee Airman to strike up a relationship with an Italian woman.  I don’t know much about the personal lives of the Tuskegee Airmen, but I do know that in Lucasfilm’s Double Victory documentary, the pilots explain that Italian people viewed them not as African-Americans, but simply as Americans.  Double Victory has some neat pictures of Tuskegee Airmen clowning with kids and spending time with Italian families. Since I lived in Italy, I found it enriched my movie experience to understand what Lightning’s fiancée said to him, especially when they first met and neither spoke the other’s language.

Here is a clip showing a special screening of Red Tails for cadets at the U. S. Air Force Academy.  The cadets loved it!  (By the way, my dad is a USAF Academy graduate—the Air Force calls them Zoomies.  My dad is also a retired fighter pilot, and he said Red Tails did a great job of showing dogfights.)



Tuskegee Airmen, Part 1Tuskegee Airmen, Part 2
Tuskegee Airmen, Part 3Tuskegee Airmen, Part 4

Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jan 21, 2012

 

Red Tails: The Tuskegee Airmen (Part 2)

Part two: Double Victory

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American aerial combat unit. Deployed in Europe during WWII, they painted the tails of their planes red and became known as the Red Tails. To the Americans, they were the Red Tail Angels. To the Germans, they were the Red Tail Devils. To all of us, they are heroes who sought a Double Victory: victory in the war abroad and victory over prejudice, segregation and Jim Crow laws at home.

This is part two of a series about the Tuskegee Airmen to coordinate with the January 20 release of Red Tails, the Lucasfilm action movie. Go see it opening weekend!

George Lucas wanted to make a movie about the Tuskegee Airmen for over 20 years. He funded Red Tails himself, first with $58 million for production and then $30 million for distribution. Red Tails is an action-packed movie that tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen protecting bombers flying over Germany. Lucas produced a documentary, Double Victory: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen in Their Own Words. The documentary has screened at numerous events honoring Tuskegee Airmen. I hope you get to see it!

The Tuskegee Airmen faced prejudice, discrimination and segregation at every step. Before WWII, African-Americans were barred from flying in the U.S. military. Civil rights organizations and the black press put pressure on Washington, ultimately leading to the formation of an all African-American pursuit squadron based in Tuskegee, Alabama. The fledgling program got a boost from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who visited the site and took a much-publicized flight with African-American chief civilian instructor C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson.

While stationed in Italy, bomber groups that the Red Tails protected did not know the pilots were black until a B-17 had to make an emergency landing at their base. In the Double Victory documentary, veterans describe how some in the bomber crew accepted the Tuskegee Airmen, but a few men chose to sleep in their plane rather than stay with the black pilots and crewmembers. Temperatures dropped so low that those men knocked on the barracks door in the middle of the night and then stayed with the Tuskegee Airmen for days. Censors found a letter home in which a recruit asked his sweetie to “forgive him” for staying with the black airmen for three days.

When the Tuskegee Airmen returned home after the war, they did not receive the hero’s welcome their white counterparts enjoyed. They faced segregation, Jim Crow laws, and discriminatory employment practices. You can trace the impetus for the Civil Rights movement resulting from how African-American veterans were treated after WWII through President Truman’s signing of Executive Order 9981 ending segregation in the military.

Here are some resources you can use for your own learning or in the classroom (depending on the grade level you teach).

PBS Home Video: The Tuskegee Airmen: This is an excellent choice for the classroom. It his educational, entertaining, and the PBS brand is above reproach from parents or administrators.

The Tuskegee Airmen: An Illustrated History: 1939-1949

The Tuskegee Airmen Story

Wind Flyers

Don’t miss the 1995 movie The Tuskegee Airmenstarring Lawrence Fishburne and Cuba Gooding Jr.

Georgia’s Kennesaw State University created an excellent Teacher’s Guide about the Tuskegee Airmen

This past weekend, I was excited to meet Tuskegee Airmen in an event to honor their legacy. I was thrilled to pose for pictures with three Tuskegee Airmen. I am posting a picture for each entry in this miniseries. This is  Tuskegee Airman Charles Cooper with me. Along with Hannibal Cox and Charles McGee, Charles Cooper shares the distinction of having flown combat missions as a fighter pilot in WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam.

Tuskegee Airmen, Part 1Tuskegee Airmen, Part 2
Tuskegee Airmen, Part 3Tuskegee Airmen, Part 4

Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jan 20, 2012

 

Red Tails: The Tuskegee Airmen (Part 1)

Part one: overview of the Tuskegee Airmen and the Red Tails movie

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American aerial combat unit. Deployed in Europe during WWII, they painted the tails of their planes red and became known as the Red Tails. To the Americans, they were the Red Tail Angels. To the Germans, they were the Red Tail Devils. To all of us, they are heroes who sought a Double Victory: victory in the war abroad and victory over prejudice, segregation and Jim Crow laws at home.

Red Tails is the Lucasfilm movie about the Tuskegee Airmen. It will be released this Friday, January 20. Go see it opening weekend! If your students are old enough, seeing the movie could be an extra credit assignment. (In the interest of fairness, provide a free extra credit opportunity: a report on the Red Tails.)

Red Tails is an action movie. Rather than dramatize how the Tuskegee Airmen began with a civil rights struggle for equality in military service, the movie opens with their most dramatic and successful missions: protecting B-17 Flying Fortress bombers.

Bombers were unwieldy and vulnerable. They were slow and they had to fly steady. They couldn’t avoid the flak and they were shot down at an alarming rate. Fighter pilots charged with protecting them would chase kills to make Ace or simply flee the incoming fire.

Not the Tuskegee Airmen. The Red Tails never left their bombers and consequently never lost a bomber. These courageous pilots flew through the flak and stayed with their charge. The bomber groups requested the Red Tails because of their outstanding track record. Few of the bombers knew the pilots protecting them were black.

Be sure to visit the website for Red Tails. Your students will love the dogfight simulation. You will enjoy showing them the history of the Red Tails at the airfield base section of the site.

This past weekend, I was unbelievably excited to meet Tuskegee Airmen in an event to honor their legacy. I was thrilled to pose for pictures with three Tuskegee Airmen. I will post one picture for each entry in this miniseries.

Here I am with Lt. Col. Robert Ashby, a Tuskegee Airman. After graduating from the cadet program in 1945, he went on to have an illustrious career in the military, serving in the occupation of Japan, the Korean conflict, and finally in England, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1965. Lt. Col. Ashby was the first black captain for Frontier Airlines. He was also the first black pilot to reach mandatory retirement age (60 years) with a major airline. He was the only Tuskegee Airman hired by a scheduled airline. Read a short autobiography here. Read more about Lt. Col. Ashby’s military career on this fact sheet from Luke Air Force Base.

*Incidentally, Luke AFB is home of the Emerald Knights, one of my dad’s old squadrons and the one I remember most clearly. They were based at Homestead AFB near Miami when my dad flew with them.

Tuskegee Airmen, Part 1Tuskegee Airmen, Part 2
Tuskegee Airmen, Part 3Tuskegee Airmen, Part 4

Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jan 17, 2012

 

Winnie the Pooh Day is January 18th

January 18 is A.A. Milne’s birthday.  Celebrate with Winnie the Pooh Day!  You can adjust your activities to suit your students’ interests and reading levels.  Pooh is not just for little kids!  The books are actually quite challenging—AR levels Winnie-the-Pooh at 4.6.

Disney has a great Winnie the Pooh site where your class can play games, watch episodes, and print pictures to color.  (Veteran teachers know to NEVER let students print without permission!  Print the pictures yourself ahead of time.)

Print Disney’s downloadable Winnie the Pooh activity book.  It’s excellent for students up to grade 3.

Extend your students’ learning by going beyond Disney’s Winnie the Pooh.  Visit the charming UK site for A.A. Milne.  You can teach your students about the author and delve more deeply into his life and books.  He wrote much more than Winnie the Pooh!  He wrote really charming poems, for instance.  They are excellent for your students to study.

I love “Halfway Down,” Milne’s poem about a place of one’s own.  It comes from his book When We Were Very Young.  http://www.dltk-kids.com/crafts/miscellaneous/mmilne-halfwaydown.htm   Check out this awesome Muppets video of Kermit’s nephew Robin singing the poem as a song.

Click here for the text of several of A.A. Milne’s poems.  You can use them for reading comprehension, reader’s theater, fluency practice, or just to color and decorate.  Whatever suits your class!

Your students would enjoy listening to you read aloud from the original Winnie-the-Pooh book.  Have fun comparing it to Disney’s movie and TV versions of the story.  Just-Pooh.com has a nice gallery that lets you compare original illustrator Ernest Shephard’s illustrations to the Disneyfied Pooh.

Happy Winnie the Pooh Day!

Posted in Academics,Book Lists,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Jan 16, 2012

 

A Quick Way to Help the School Librarian

The elementary school librarian has a big job. In addition to managing thousands of books, the librarian teaches hundreds of children everything from how to select books to how to research any topic under the sun.

Instead of just dropping off your students, why not take a minute to help?

When I take my students to library, I facilitate the librarian’s task of checking in books by arranging all the books into several fanned-out piles with the barcodes easily accessible. This way, it’s a snap for the librarian to scan each book. If the librarian lets me, I then load the books onto the re-shelving cart. (Some librarians find it faster to do it themselves than explain their system.)

My students have caught on and take pride in laying out their books so that it’s easy for me to make the little piles.

Incidentally, this trick is also a good way to help another person we meet frequently—the store cashier. When clothes shopping, I even go so far as to fold my clothes after they’re scanned, which helps move the line along and leads to fewer wrinkles later.

There you have it—a teaching and shopping tip in one!

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 9, 2012

 

Kids and Kindles Part 4: Building a Classroom Kindle Library

Amazon’s e-reader, the Kindle can be a wonderful classroom tool, and it’s something parents can easily make available for their students at home.   The Kindle is so wonderful, in fact, that I can’t do the Kindle justice in just one blog post. Hence the Kids and Kindles series.

Part four: building a classroom Kindle library

  1. Browse books by cost: when you browse Kindle children’s books, you can search by age group and cost.  You will find interesting Kindle books for under four dollars.  The Kindle books are offered on special every so often, so you might be able to find a famous title at a super-low price.  Low-cost Kindle books can be a good way to try new and independent authors.
  2. Borrow from Amazon:  If you are a member of Amazon Prime, you can borrow many Kindle books for free.  (My books are available to Prime members to borrow for free!)  You join Amazon Prime for $79: the first month is a free trial—it’s an especially good deal because Amazon Prime includes free 2 day delivery and streaming movies and TV shows.  If you just have one or two Kindles in your classroom that you paid for, you can use your account to borrow books for them.
  3. Borrow from the library:  Public libraries are now making e-books available for download to your Kindle.  You usually search through your library’s online catalogue, click the link, then follow directions to download to your Kindle.  This is a great way to stock classroom Kindles.
  4. Read free books: Kindles let you read public domain books for free.  Through Amazon, you can reach a variety of websites with free classics.  This is excellent for high school students who are required to read these classics.  Many classics are hard for elementary students to read, but Beatrix Potter is accessible.  So are lesser-known books by A. A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh.
  5. Read series books:  Series pull kids in because they don’t have to get bogged down in the exposition.  Download Kindle books of classic and new series.  I think the Boxcar Children are due for a renaissance.  They are longer (and a little cheaper) than Junie B. Jones or Magic Tree House, so you get more for your money.  Whatever series you research, be sure to sort by price so you buy the bargain installments first.

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget the Corey Green Kindle books!  I wrote them, so I know they’re good.  Check out the first three books in my Buckley School Books series.  The characters are just like kids in your class, and kids will love the action and comedy.

Corey Green Kindle books fit the tips for stocking your Kindle library: they’re good series books, they’re low-cost Kindle choices, and you can borrow them for free using Amazon Prime.

Zapped!
Kyle creates a fake student named Stan to take the blame for a prank gone wrong.  Kyle and his friends learn that inventing Stan was easy, making him behave is impossible.  Stan takes on a life of his own, getting the kids into more trouble than they ever imagined.

Brainstorm
Brian is very smart—so why do his brainstorms backfire?  His homework help website was supposed to help kids and make Brian cool—but when it becomes famous, everyone is jealous.  Brian tries to distract his classmates with a mystery about a heist at the art museum—but then it turns out the heist is real!  Can the kids stop the robbers?

Double Switched
Connor knows he will be a baseball star—if he can just make it through sixth grade.  But life is so switched around!  Switched team position: now Connor’s not the star shortstop.  Switched class at school: how can Connor do the work if he can’t even read the directions?  Switched baseball field: what is that strange odor over where the workers are smoking?  The bases are loaded with problems for Connor.  Can he find a way to make things right?

Kids and Kindles, an occasional series at the Class Antics blog.

Don’t miss Part 1 about how the Kindle will read any book out loud to you, or Part 2 about how to use the Kindle to teach speed reading.

Posted in Academics,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Jan 5, 2012

 

Kids and Kindles Part 3: the No-Budget Kindle

Amazon’s e-reader, the Kindle, can be a wonderful classroom tool, and it’s something parents can easily make available for their students at home.  The Kindle is so wonderful, in fact, that I can’t do it justice in just one blog post. Hence the Kids and Kindles series.

Part three: the no-budget Kindle

The Kindle is great for teaching reading, but it’s not cheap.  However, you can download a free Kindle reader to your classroom computer or computer lab workstations.  Then you can let your students use a no-budget Kindle.

Your no-budget Kindle doesn’t have bells and whistles, but it’s enough to get your class started.  You can teach speed reading.  You can motivate reluctant readers to read.  You can get some results and build a case for buying actual Kindles in the classroom.  (Document results, get some students to write testimonials, and submit to administration or charitable organizations that might give you a grant.)

For your no-budget Kindle startup, you’ll mostly stick to free classic books available through Amazon, Internet Archive, Open Library, Project Gutenberg, and other free e-book sites.  (They all have directions on how to download).  If you teach older students, many will be able to read classic stories like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  For younger students, there are still options, like classic Beatrix Potter stories.

If you are lucky enough to have a projector in the classroom, you can teach students about the Kindle app before you turn them loose in the computer lab.  Load a free e-book, then project your screen as you show students how to play with features that enhance readability.

Click on the Aa at the top of your screen to adjust the text display.  You can increase the font size, making any book seem easier.  Adjust the brightness so the background is gray rather than white.

What really helps speed-reading is to decrease the words per line (an option found by clicking the Aa).  This helps because students’ eyes don’t have to travel so far across the screen, so there is less opportunity for the eyes to lose their way, so to speak.  Check out my blog posts on Speed Reading and Kindle Speed Reading for more information.

Click on the blocks to format your Kindle text in columns.  Students will see how the narrow band of text enhances their ability to read quickly—just like in a newspaper.

Click here for Amazon’s free Kindle apps for a multitude of platforms: PC, Mac, iPod, and various smart phones.

Don’t miss Part 1 about how the Kindle will read any book out loud to you, or Part 2 about how to use the Kindle to teach speed reading.

Posted in Academics,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Jan 3, 2012