Unlikely but engrossing essay topic–the Swiffer Duster

SwifferNo one sets out to assign an essay about the Swiffer.  I stumbled across this magical essay topic by accident.

It began with the feather duster I provided as equipment for one of our class jobs.  (Click here for tips on setting up an extremely effective class jobs system.)  My students told me that a Swiffer would work much better.  I bought a Swiffer starter kit for the classroom.  The kids took great pride in showing me how to set up and use it.

It became clear that my third graders had strong feelings about the Swiffer.  I assigned it as that week’s essay topic.  Students could pick their own style of essay: persuasive, personal narrative, how-to, compare/contrast, or descriptive.  Their essays ran the gamut.  All of them were at least a page long.  Even the most reluctant writers had a lot to say about the Swiffer.

I cut up the Swiffer box and used it to decorate our hallway bulletin board.  We hung up Swiffer papers on yellow backgrounds.  Our classroom was on the way to the cafeteria, so everyone passed our Swiffer board.   Many kids complimented us on it.  It turns out that all elementary students really like the Swiffer.

I hope that the Swiffer assignment works as well for you as it did for G3, Miss Green’s Third Grade.  May it bring you a dust-free classroom full of happily writing students!

Posted in Writing by Corey Green @ May 23, 2016

 

Teach U.S. civics, history and geography with 9 FREE quizzes from the US naturalization test

Teach your students all 100 questions and answers from the U.S. naturalization test.  Nine quizzes with corresponding study guides make it easy to break the test into manageable chunks.  I hope these quizzes help teachers, students, and candidates for naturalization.

Children who grow up in the U.S should know the civics, geography, and history concepts that we ask our naturalized citizens to learn.  By studying the test, your students will gain an overview of what it means to be American.  I hope t2hey will also gain respect for immigrants, who must learn all this information without the context that makes it much easier for U.S.-born people to understand.

The unit starts with the easiest lesson for American students, U.S. Geography and symbols.  This lets the students score an easy win and knock out 12 of the 100 questions.

Click here for all study guides in one pdf, and click here for all quizzes in one pdf.  Click here for the answers–once on the page, just click “100 civics questions and answers.”

  1. U.S. Geography and Symbols
  2. Principles of American Democracy
  3. Legislative branch
  4. Executive branch
  5. Judicial branch and local government
  6. Rights and Responsibilities
  7. Colonial Period and Independence
  8. U.S. History: 1800s
  9. Recent American History & Other Important Information
Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ May 16, 2016

 

Branding your Classroom

When you brand your classroom, everything becomes more fun.  Branding builds community because it makes your class feel more like a club.

My last name is Green.  When I taught third grade, I branded my classroom G3 and created a logo with an interlocking G and 3.  On the first day of school, I taught the kids how to do a class huddle and congratulate ourselves.  (I say “Go, us!” and the kids reply “G3!” in their deepest and most macho voices.) We also created a logo that we proudly displayed on our door.

The picture at right shows the G3 version of the Roman testudo (tortoise) formation.  This was our class’s entry into the Social Studies parade.  Our curriculum included Greek and Roman history, so a testudo formation was right up our alley.  The G3 posterboard shields look nice, don’t they?

The G3 brand belonged to everyone in the class.  Students proudly decorated folders, notebooks and even backpacks.  Our PTSO created signing shirts for end-of-year autographs, and the kids all wanted G3 on their shirt.

I knew a teacher whose classroom was in the basement, Room B-6.  She renamed her classroom “The  BOG” as wordplay on B-o6, then she used frogs as a theme for everything related to her class.

Another teacher chose ladybugs for a theme.  She called her students “Lovebugs,” as in “Lovebug, could you have made a better choice than hitting Tommy?” Everything sounds sweet if you add “lovebug.”

I highly recommend that you create a brand for your classroom.  It can be a play on your name or grade, the school name, or a theme that you can use to decorate the classroom.  Make it unique so that it only applies to your class.  The “insider” feeling will be well worth the effort.

Posted in Classroom Management,First Year Teachers by Corey Green @ May 9, 2016

 

Extra credit: 6 benefits

apluspaperExtra credit can be a motivational tool that empowers students and helps parents get involved.    Here are five reasons I like to assign extra credit:

Students feel more control of their grades.  With extra credit, students know that there are ways they can influence their grade.  They don’t have to wait for you to give a grade–they can earn it on their own.

Students learn study skills.  This works especially well in math. I copy the practice/reteach pages from our textbook program.  Higher achieving students can do the problems as a grade booster; lower-achieving students can work with the teacher, a peer, a tutor, or a parent to learn the material.  Struggling students are more motivated to do these practice problems because they know it will improve their grade.

Extra credit can make difficult conversations more productive.  We all have to phone or write parents to explain that a student is struggling.  If you offer lots of extra credit opportunities, you can make the conversation productive and positive by emphasizing what students and parents can do right now to improve the grade.  Everyone will feel better about putting in the time and effort.

Extra credit is motivational–and contagious: once a few students do extra credit and see results, others will be more motivated to try it themselves.  My classes work harder when I provide a lot of extra credit opportunities.  Many teachers fear students will do the extra credit instead of regular assignments, but I find that extra credit makes students work harder on the required work, too.  Students get into the habit of achieving.

Students are willing to take risks: students will work harder and do more challenging work in an extra credit context.  Extra credit is risk-free, so if the work isn’t up to par, it just doesn’t count.  It doesn’t hurt the students’ grades.  I find that students are more willing to try challenge problems, higher-order thinking questions, and critical thinking prompts if they know that it’s just for extra credit.  They often end up doing better than they would have if the assignment had been required.  (Extra credit takes the resentment out of work!)

Extra credit keeps struggling students in the game: we know that struggling students need to work more, not less, than others.  Extra credit lets them do remedial work that immediately impacts their grade.  It can make the difference between passing and failing.  As students do more extra credit, they learn the skills needed to pass the class on their own, with or without the bonus points.

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 2, 2016