Book Review: The Princess School series

The Princess School is a short-lived book series—much like a favorite TV show that gets cancelled too soon*. Authors Jane B. Mason and Sarah Hines imagine that Ella, Snow, Rapunzel and Rose attend Princess School, a finishing school that teaches mirror skills, charms, how to be charming—everything a princess needs to know.

The Princess School characters are relatable and fun. There is something for everyone; think Princess Spice Girls. Rapunzel is Sporty Spice. Ella is relatable-and-spunky Ginger Spice. Snow White is Baby Spice, the girl the others protect. Rose is Posh Spice—if Posh wanted to be a normal girl rather than marry soccer star David Beckham, move to Los Angeles and start her own clothing line.

The Princess School will interest readers in third grade and up, but high-achieving second graders can handle it. The books are more difficult than Magic Tree House and similar in reading level to American Girl books. The Princess School books hover at the 5th grade reading level.

Personally, I don’t think The Princess School books are particularly difficult to read. I think the high AR reading level may have kept students from being allowed to read it for school. I see the same thing happening with Beverly Cleary books—I swear that part of the reason kids don’t read them so much nowadays is the 4-6th grade AR level on most of her books.

Here is the information on The Princess School books. Buy them on Amazon, or, better yet, see if you can convince your school library to buy them for you! Your girls will thank you.

If the Shoe Fits: Reading level 5.2, worth 4 points
Who’s the Fairest: Reading level 5.2, worth 4 points
Let Down Your Hair: Reading level 4.9 , worth 4 points
Beauty Is A Beast: Reading level 5.2, worth 4 points
Princess Charming: Reading level 5.0, worth 3 points
Apple-Y Ever After: Reading level 4.8, worth 3 points
Thorn In Her Side: Reading level 5.2, worth 3 points

The The Princess School series is very different from Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. The Princess School is like a fun and fluffy romantic comedy; Princess Academy is like Serious Film “Oscar bait.” Both are good—but they are very, very different.

*Prime example: Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Check it out if you haven’t already! Maybe we can bring The Princess School back in the manner that Firefly fans got the Serenity movie made.

 

Posted in Book Lists,Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ May 29, 2012

 

Memorial Day Resources and Worksheets

Here are some FREE worksheets to help you teach your class about Memorial Day.  Students will be interested in learning about the history, which began as Decoration Day to honor fallen Civil War soldiers.

Two reading comprehension sheets will be useful to elementary school teachers: one from an ESOL website that offers an interesting view of the holiday since it was not written for American students.  A worksheet telling a story about a boy whose father is a soldier brings a more personal viewpoint.  Note: during the ceremony, the boy “whispered a prayer to God;” you have to decide if that is okay in your school.  If you want quick word-search, vocabulary, and crossword puzzles, you can find them all here.  The sheets are not particularly educational—just sponge activities, really, but will be popular for the requesting-homework crowd.

The Internet abounds with histories of Memorial Day, many quite long for a teacher who just wants to help students mark the day with something other than a barbeque.  This article from Time is the perfect quick-study resource for you.  The article tells the history of Memorial Day—and the controversy.  Memorial Day began as Decoration Day to honor fallen Civil War soldiers.  The holiday was so closely linked with the Union that the South refused to celebrate.  Only after WWI, when the day was expanded to include all soldiers, did the holiday gain traction nationwide.  Some say that expanding the meaning of Decoration Day to all soldiers also diluted the meaning of the holiday that marked the difference between fighting for slavery and freedom.

Visit MemorialDay.org for information about the holiday, from history of the day to tips on how to observe Memorial Day.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays by Corey Green @ May 24, 2012

 

Book Review: Washington City Is Burning

Washington City Is Burning, winner of the 1997 Carl Sandburg Award, is a wonderful story by respected author and multiple award winner Harriette Gillem Robinet. I recommend it for any classroom, but particularly if you study American history.

The focus, of course, is the British invasion of Washington City (now Washington, D.C) in the War of 1812. Tremendous extra value is added by telling the story from the point of view of Virginia, an enslaved girl. Dolley Madison saving the portrait of George Washington figures in the story, but that’s really just the beginning.

The strongest storyline is about slavery in our nation’s capital. To me, it was much more interesting than the actual invasion when the British soldiers burned Washington City (although that is well told, too.)

Did you know there were slave auctions just blocks away from the White House? Wait until you read about the suffering Virginia endured to save her fellow slaves—even before she became a house slave at the White House, the central setting of the book.  (Don’t worry, it’s not too much for your students.) There is an exciting sequence wherein Virginia rescues slaves that are to be sold at auction. Her bravery is stunning and humbling. Could you or I have done what she did?

I hope you read and enjoy Washington City Is Burning. I think it is Newbery Medal quality. I wish it had been around when I was a kid, but I will content myself with sharing this book with today’s children.

Posted in Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy,Social Studies by Corey Green @ May 21, 2012

 

Class Antics Nominated for “Most Fascinating Blog” Award

Dear readers,

Exciting news!  ClassAntics.com has been nominated for the 2012 Fascination Awards featuring the Internet’s most fascinating blogs in the category of Elementary Teacher Blogs.  It’s an honor just to be nominated.

The Fascinator Awards editorial team chooses the nominees.  ClassAntics caught their attention with FREE Leap Year Worksheets Part 3.  Special thanks to Kumie and Ramona, whose positive comments impressed the editorial team.

Thank you to the ten thousand viewers who visit ClassAntics each month.

Sincerely,
Corey Green
P.S. For a ClassAntics Sampler, visit these popular posts.

Classroom Management
All for One and One for All: Whole-Class Incentives
A typical elementary schoolday schedule
A Sample First Day of School Letter Home
Chill Music for the Classroom
Best Practices for Professional Learning Communities (Part 2)
Make your classroom a tattle-free zone

Literacy
AR Report: What Kids are Reading
Teaching Kids to Write Complete Sentences
Figurative Language with Taylor Swift: You Belong with Me

Resources and Worksheets
Dad’s Worksheets: my favorite math resource for parents and teachers
FREE Equinox Worksheet and More Equinox Teaching Resources
Beat Summer Slide: Where to Buy Workbooks

Civil Rights
Red Tails: The Tuskegee Airmen (Part 1)
Coretta Scott King Book Awards 2012
Teaching the Civil Rights Movement, Part 1
Teaching the Civil Rights Movement, Part 2
Ballad of Birmingham
Ruby Bridges

Academics
New Orleans Halloween
Think Inside the Box
How to Ace Standardized Tests

Posted in Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ May 13, 2012

 

Georgia O’Keeffe pictures make great Mother’s Day Cards

Teach an art appreciation lesson and make Mother’s Day cards!

“I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.” –Georgia O’Keeffe

Students love to learn about Georgia O’Keeffe’s oversized flower paintings. The bold lines, bright colors and happy subjects speak to children. In my experience, students truly appreciate learning a different way to see the world.

Teachers like to have students imitate famous artists’ styles, and for many students, that is very frustrating. Most of us will never be able to approximate the works of the great artists, and kids know it. Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower paintings feel more accessible to kids.

At first, my students have trouble filling a paper with just one flower. I usually do a few examples, with different types of flower outlines. Once kids see how it’s done, they are raring to go!

For reluctant or self-conscious artists, I draw the giant flower myself and let them color until they build up their confidence. Students who figure out how to draw big flowers like to help their friends.

The giant flowers make great Mother’s Day cards. I hope you and your class enjoy this simple but educational art project!

Cross curricular connection for science: plant growth is a third grade science topic in my district. I like to tie in art by having the kids make Georgia O’Keeffe pictures and gluing little clip-art bees on them. It’s a bee’s-eye view of a flower!

Visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum’s website for a gallery of her flower pictures. Fun anecdote: I visited the museum with my little brother when he was in third grade. Halfway through our museum visit, my brother said, “Wait. These are the original paintings? The ones Georgia touched?” He was awestruck.

See if your students understand that the paintings at art museums are the originals. You might be able to give them more appreciation of their next art museum visit.

Posted in Holidays,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 9, 2012

 

Amelia Bedelia in the Classroom

Idiom-challenged maid Amelia Bedelia has delighted children since 1963.  Who can resist a maid who doesn’t understand how to draw the drapes or put out the lights?  Amelia Bedelia’s good intentions and delicious desserts carry her through.

Interestingly enough, I have noticed that most children don’t enjoy the humor of Amelia Bedelia unless they are taught how to appreciate it.  Like Amelia Bedelia, children are very literal and they just don’t get the jokes.   I think kids enjoy Amelia Bedelia books best if they hear several of them read aloud.  That way, the students can help each other explain the idioms.  If you are lucky, one or two kids will get each joke, and they can explain them to the class.  Once the students understand Amelia Bedelia books, rereading them makes for good fluency practice.

Amelia Bedelia books are time-honored vehicles for teaching children about idioms.  This is especially helpful to English Language Learners (ELL students).  Idioms are hard to pick up—notice I used an idiom to explain the quandary.

In addition to the classic Amelia Bedelia books, your students will enjoy reading Herman Parish’s books about young Amelia Bedelia and her first experiences at school.  The books are charming and will make your students feel like seasoned vets as they chuckle over how confusing school is to young Amelia.  You can read a sample here at the Harper Collins website.

Tip for standardized test prep: it’s tough to answer a question about explaining the idiom if you don’t know what an idiom is.  Your students will face this problem unless you periodically review the meaning of words like “idiom.”  It’s easy to lose sight of vocabulary basics in fun lessons, so remember to bring the kids back to the definition.

Resources for Amelia Bedelia and Idioms

List of Amelia Bedelia books
Available at Amazon.com

Amelia Bedelia (1963) – Wiki link
Thank You, Amelia Bedelia (1964)
Amelia Bedelia and the Surprise Shower (1966)
Come Back, Amelia Bedelia (1971)
Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia (1972)
Good Work, Amelia Bedelia (1976)
Teach Us, Amelia Bedelia (1977)
Amelia Bedelia Helps Out (1979)
Amelia Bedelia and the Baby (1981)
Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping (1985)
Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia (1986)
Amelia Bedelia’s Family Album (1988)
Good Driving, Amelia Bedelia (1995)
Bravo, Amelia Bedelia! (1997)
Amelia Bedelia 4 Mayor (1999)
Calling Doctor Amelia Bedelia (2002)
Amelia Bedelia and the Christmas List (2003)
Amelia Bedelia, Bookworm (2003)
Happy Haunting, Amelia Bedelia (2004)
Amelia Bedelia Goes Back to School (2004)
Be My Valentine, Amelia Bedelia (2004)
Amelia Bedelia, Rocket Scientist? (2005)
Amelia Bedelia’s Masterpiece (2007)
Amelia Bedelia Under Construction (2007)
Amelia Meets Emilie Castro (2007)
Amelia Bedelia and the Cat (2008)
Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School (2009)
Amelia Bedelia’s First Valentine (2009)
Amelia Bedelia Makes a Friend (2011)

 

Posted in Book Lists,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ May 3, 2012

 

Giving directions to the whole class

Here is a simple, effective way to involve the whole class in the directions you give—and make sure the kids understand the directions!

I call it “Hands on your head.  Repeat after me.”

Give this command as you place your own hands on your head.  Elementary-age students will happily follow suit (if you have the right spirit and your heart is pure.)

Now you have the attention of the class, and no one is messing around.

Give your directions, one sentence or phrase at a time.  Have the students repeat each component.

Because the students repeat the directions, you know they understand you.  Because the students’ hands are on their heads, you know they were not distracted by other things.

Here is an example:

“Hands on your head.  Repeat after me.”

“Hands on your head.  Repeat after me.”

 “In just a moment, it will be time for library.”

“In just a moment, it will be time for library.”

“Before we leave, we will turn in our seatwork.”

“Before we leave, we will turn in our seatwork.”

 “…to our boxes.”

“…to our boxes.”

 “Then, we will gather our library books.”

“Then, we will gather our library books.”

 “…and our library cards.”

“…and our library cards.”

“We’ll help each other out by checking to see if our neighbor remembered both books and card.”

“We’ll help each other out by checking to see if our neighbor remembered both books and card.”

“Hands down. ” (Lower your hands and watch the class follow suit. )

“GO!” or  “BEGIN!” or “GET TO WORK!” (you get the idea…)

Posted in Classroom Management,First Year Teachers by Corey Green @ May 1, 2012