FreeRice.com in the classroom or at home

Make your next computer-lab session a FreeRice.com extravaganza with these fun games from the philanthropically inclined quiz site.

FreeRice.com began as a fun way to while away your work day while “earning” rice to be given by the United Nations World Food Programme.  The original quiz was a multiple-choice vocabulary challenge.

Now FreeRice.com is an online bonanza of high-quality quizzes.  My students just love it!  Although all the quizzes are educational when taken by a student at the appropriate level, some become guessing-games for elementary students.  (I’m looking at you, Chemistry Symbols Full List!)

Here are my recommendations for elementary students’ use of FreeRice.com:

English Vocabulary: it’s leveled, so kids will likely spend a long time working on words that are appropriate for them.  If you get kids to really slow down and take this seriously, they can build not only their vocabulary, but their test-taking skills.

English Grammar: standardized tests abound with questions that look a lot like those on English Grammar.  Finding worksheets for practice can be difficult.  Thank goodness for FreeRice.com.

Multiplication Table: you can never have too many programs for practicing multiplication.  (In the computer lab: you can easily look around the computer lab and see that everyone is indeed on FreeRice.com and not Poptropica.)

Basic Math (Pre-Algebra) is PERFECT for elementary school.  Don’t let the Pre-Algebra name fool you; this quiz starts at a level much easier than that mainstay of junior high curriculum.  Depending on your kids’ ability to answer the questions, they will remain at basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division until they show ability to handle simple order of operations questions.

Identify Countries on the Map and World Landmarks are outside your kids’ comfort zone, and definitely outside what most elementary schools teach.  However, FreeRice’s pattern of repeating incorrectly answered questions will help students learn the locations of these landmarks.  Best for 4th grade and up, when kids really begin to learn history.

My personal favorite: Famous Paintings!  This is outside of your kids’ knowledge, but will be fun for them anyway.  For you, it’s a good way to brush up on your ability to identify paintings by the masters.

Have fun at FreeRice.com!

UPDATE: Comment by Team Freerice — June 27, 2012:
We’re so pleased to have Freerice as a Classroom Antic! Thank you for helping us to raise rice by raising awareness.

Posted in Academics,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Jun 22, 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

 

National Center for Educational Statistics

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP test, is commonly called “The Nation’s Report Card.”  The results of this test are commonly cited in news articles comparing states, noting areas of weakness in our students, and analyzing trends.

I think anyone with an interest in education would enjoy perusing the state profiles at the National Center for Educational Statistics.  The data at your fingertips is just amazing.  You can highlight your state and immediately see NAEP data for both 4th and 8th grades for the last ten years.  It’s interesting to see how many students in your state scored at or above basic, proficient, and advanced.

The real fun comes when you compare the states.  The website makes it so easy.  Say you want to compare the 4th grade reading data in your state.  Go down to the chart of scores and click on “compare.”  You are taken to a screen that looks like this.  Now the states are color coded to indicate which states had a higher average scale score, which states were not significantly different, and which states had a lower average scale score.  You can see the same score data in two graph types: bar and line graphs.

The NAEP website is a good place to find demographic data for your state.  Just scroll down and you’ll see it on the side of the screen: the number of students, teachers, the student-to-teacher ratio, the ethnic breakdown, and more.  Here is an example for New Hampshire.

Applications:

  • The data can be helpful for the just plain curious.  How does your state really stack up against all others?  Is the situation as dire as politicians would have you believe?
  • The data can help you with papers for advanced degree programs, professional development, or presentations.
  • The charts, graphs, and map-with-comparisons are wonderful examples of data for your class.  I really like how you can see the same data in a table, map, bar graph, or line graph.

 

Posted in Education Policy and Reform,Math by Corey Green @ Mar 20, 2012

 

Best Practices for Professional Learning Communities (Part 1)

Part One: Assess Wisely

This is part of an occasional series about Professional Learning Communities— I dubbed it Trade & Teach, a practice of assessing all students in a grade level and creating leveled groups taught by different teachers.  It can work really well in elementary schools, but I have noticed the trend is to reinvent the wheel in the name of teacher buy-in. Rather than that, I offer Best Practices advice from tried and true implementation experience in real third grade classrooms. If you’re not familiar with Professional Learning Communities, read the Wiki here.

Trade & Teach looks at all students in a grade, then creates groups based on students’ levels of learning or achievement in a specific area.  For example, if your Trade & Teach focus is on reading, assess students’ reading levels and form reading groups for intensive instruction.  The highest reading group, for example, should be the largest group because the highest  readers need less formal instruction, while lower readers require intensive individual attention, thus mandating a small student-teacher ratio.  Teacher buy-in results from knowing that the group skill levels are clustered, resulting in fewer strategies for student engagement and greater focus on learning. 

In order to assess wisely, you need a clear goal.  Are you trying to remediate a specific skill such as addition, writing complete sentences or distinguishing cause from effect?  Or are you teaching reading, writing or math in general?  Decide what you wish to accomplish, then design an assessment that lets you differentiate among the students in that one area.

It really helps to use just one measurement to sort students based on their learning achievements.  Minor adjustments can be made based on teacher discretion.  Overall, you’ll be glad you only have one variable to deal with for each assessment and learning objective.

After you assess, I recommend creating a spreadsheet or using an online grade book like JupiterGrades to store data.  Input all student test or assessment scores.  Then sort and print.  Draw lines and voila!  You have your rough estimate of groups.

Part of wise assessing is knowing how often to assess.  I recommend that you leave students in their learning groups for at least a month.  Assess too often and you’ll spend more time evaluating and regrouping than actually teaching.  Besides, student growth is often more apparent if you give children long enough to learn new ideas and cement them into long term memory before you assess again.

How often you assess is determined in part by the goals of your Professional Learning Communities.  If your goals are more specific skill-based, you might assess more often.  For example, you might spend a month on place value and related skills, then reassess before forming groups for a very different skill like geometry.

Overall, I like the general-goals plan for Professional Learning Communities.  If you sort students by overall proficiency in math determined by, say, a Star Math score, then you are better able to adjust instruction for students’ needs.  For example, one group might need to spend a great deal of time on basic facts while another group can focus on problem solving.  More about that in the next entry in this occasional series…

This series on Professional Learning Communities Best Practices is made possible by Valerie, Donina, Bethany and Heather … an amazing third grade team!

Posted in Professional Learning Communities by Corey Green @ Nov 1, 2011