Set up class jobs right away!

During the first week of school, I used to have to do a lot of cleaning after dismissal each day.  This is because I hadn’t set up a clear job system right away and train my students.  Then, I got smart and made it a priority.  Setting up a class jobs system gives students a sense of competence, community and cleanliness all at once.

Let me share with you a brilliant class job system that keeps the room spic-and-span.  (Many of the ideas came from my students—the best solutions always do.)

Before this brilliant system, I had what most teachers have: a rotation system for jobs.  The problem with this is that kids forget what their job is, and you constantly have to train students in a new job.  Plus, kids slack because they know you can’t keep up with who is supposed to do what.

My students and I developed a job system based on efficiency, not fun.  (It turned out to be fun anyway.)  We created an Excel spreadsheet listing all the jobs we thought we needed.  Then we began to assign jobs.  By the end of the year, everyone had at least three jobs.  Some kids had more.

You can download and view this sample Excel spreadsheet.  You can sort it by job to assign one job to several students.  You can sort it by student to see how many jobs each student has.  You might not recognize some of the jobs—delete them!  Feel free to add your own.  Please post your best ideas for jobs so we can all learn.

Each job earns income: five table points for doing it in the morning, and five table points for the afternoon.  (Jobs that don’t fit this schedule are assigned table points that seem fair.)

First thing in the morning and at the end of the day, the class becomes a beehive of activity as students complete their assigned jobs and mark their table points.  Our classroom always looks great!

I know it’s not feasible to assign all 90 jobs during the first week.  I usually identify my 30 most important jobs and assign those.  When the kids ask if they can switch jobs later in the year, I’ll tell them no.  I’ll cheer them up by saying that we can start assigning more jobs as people show how well they can do their assigned jobs.

Some kids are particularly good workers and may have more jobs than others.  I also let kids invent jobs and then do them.  The deal is that if you invent the job, you get first dibs on doing it.  (Aren’t elementary kids great?  They want to help in the classroom.)  The kids think of very clever ways to keep the classroom looking nice, and that makes it a better place to learn!


 

Back to School: ask parents to write a letter about their child

backpackandlunchbagConsider asking parents to write you a letter about their child.  A personal letter from the people who know your student best can inform your teaching for the entire school year.

Many letters will be straightforward: basic info about likes and dislikes, favorite subjects, etc.  However, some parents will be glad of the opportunity to share special concerns.  You might learn about family circumstances, health issues,  or previous experiences with school that affect how the student learns and behaves.

Be judicious about whether you request a letter from families.  At some schools, parents would welcome the chance to communicate in writing.  At others, parents may feel like you are giving them a writing assessment.  Another possible issue is a language barrier–but you never know.  You might find that some parents are happy to write you a letter in their native language.  Chances are that someone in the district can translate for you–or you can get a rough idea with a Google translation.

Back to school night is a good time to request the letter, but it’s not the only opportunity.  Your school might have an Open House a few weeks into the school year.  By that time, the rush is past and everyone, including you, has more time to devote to the assignment.

A clear complement to the letter-from-a-parent is the letter-from-a-student.  An open-ended letter about the student makes a good writing assessment and informative piece for your files.

Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Aug 15, 2016

 

Offer a choice of two

I learned the “offer a choice of two” tip from a mom volunteer, who smoothly distributed about 5 flavors of popsicles with all students feeling like they had a choice in the treat they were given.  I realized that offering a choice of 2 has many classroom management applications:

— It speeds up questioning that’s intended to keep the lesson going, not spark deep thought.  “Should we put the apostrophe before or after the s?” instead of “Where should we put the apostrophe?”

— It gives students options without overwhelming them with choices: “Would you like to use markers or crayons?” instead of “What would you like to color with?”

— It offers students a pseudo-choice: “Would you like to calm down and do the activity with us, or refocus in another classroom?” instead of “Shape up or ship out.”  (also a choice of 2, actually)

— It teaches kids to make a decision, then stick with it.  Most decisions in life are not worth over-thinking.  Your mom’s birthday card will look good whether you use red paper or pink.  Just pick one!

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Apr 18, 2016

 

5 ways to cultivate a coworker relationship with your students

raisehandsIn many ways, I have a closer coworker relationship with my students than I do with my colleagues.   My colleagues are wonderful, and we help each other with teaching, classroom management, and meeting students’ needs.  However, the coworker relationship is much closer with students.

In the classroom, I am the manager and the students are my team.  Our task is to make sure everyone meets standards by the end of the school year.  I set a plan for how to accomplish our learning goals, but the students and I adjust it as the year goes on.

How to treat your students like coworkers:

  1. Cultivate the coworker attitude in yourself—it will show in how you approach everything.
  2. Share with students the state and national standards, curriculum maps, and pacing materials from the district. This helps them take your perspective–and take your job more seriously.  Seeing planning and accountability materials helps students understand the big picture and appreciate that school is about more than day-to-day assignments.
  3. When possible, tell students your objective and give them the chance to help you determine the best way to accomplish it. You can do this for a day, a unit, a project, a grading period, or the whole year.  Give the students experience with short and long-range planning.
  4. Assign class jobs. Explain to students that the classroom requires certain tasks be done in order for each day to go smoothly.   Teach students about man hours, efficiency, and management skills.  This will motivate everyone to complete their jobs because they understand the true purpose.  (Click here for detailed advice on setting up class jobs—including a FREE fill-in spreadsheet.  Click here for advice on how to work as a team to maintain the classroom.)
  5. Try to keep things between you and the student wherever possible. If you must involve an administrator or parent, move on after the incident is over.  Try to get back to dealing with the student directly.  If you can do this successfully, you’ll strengthen the coworker bond.
Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Aug 17, 2015

 

Run a successful recess—Part 2

PlayingBallSad but true: many of today’s kids don’t know how to play outside.  Many kids aren’t given free rein to play outside in a neighborhood, and many others choose to spend most of their time indoors.  Consequently, they haven’t developed the fun-at-recess skill set.

Part Two: Teach kids how to play

As a teacher, you can help your students learn to have fun at recess.  This will help them get the most out of their outside time.  Ideally, they will enjoy the brisk exercise and time to make friends and develop social skills.

Tips for helping kids have fun at recess

Before recess time, suggest activities.  For example, find out who wants to swing, play tetherball, catch, four square, tag*, etc.   Buddy up kids so that everyone has a plan for fun.   As with many things in life, you get more out of it if you go in with a plan.

Teach kids how to have fun: go outside with the kids and teach them how to play four square.  Many of today’s kids don’t know.  Teach them how to jump rope and recite some common rhymes.  Play a few rounds of tetherball, demonstrating how much faster the game goes if no one is allowed to stop the ball or touch the rope.  You could arrange with other teachers in your grade level to take turns giving these lessons.  If everyone does it one day a week for a couple weeks, your students will become experts in fun.

Ask for parent volunteers: parents might love to drop by the school and teach kids how to have fun.  You could even make it an event and arrange a special one-hour fun lesson on a Friday afternoon.  Parents could talk to the class first, then go outside and teach fun.  You could ha have kids rotate through stations so they discover new games.  Sounds like a great party!

Ask older students to help: this would work particularly well if you teach kids how to have fun at recess every year.  The first year would be tough, but after that you’d have a group of alumni who can tutor kids on fun.

Look for tutors in your class: some students might already know certain games and would enjoy teaching them.  This can be a great way to help kids make friends and step outside their usual social circles.

Have a happy recess!

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Sep 15, 2014

 

School Picture Day Tips for Teachers

Smile, it’s school picture day! Fun for kids, stressful for teachers. These tips will help you grin and bear it.

1) Sign up for picture time the instant the schedule is posted. Someone from your grade level should get up there, pronto! Sign up your whole team. Try to snag a time in the morning—before PE, recess, and lunch.

2) Keep a spare shirt on hand. One year, I bought a navy blue tee shirt at Wal-Mart because it was $3 and we were approaching picture day. Kids rocked that shirt for years! Navy blue looks good on everybody. Another good choice is red. (One year, the shirt looked so good on a student that I let him keep it. Interestingly enough, the parents never questioned this! Not to me, anyway.)

3) Pictures after lunch? Bring in a few aprons or giant tee shirts for lunch time. Murphy’s Law dictates the School Picture Day will also be Sloppy Joes day. Messes are expected, and kids WILL melt down. An apron or giant tee shirt worn as a smock can prevent heartache.

4) Keep a supply of cheap combs. The really cheap disposable kind. You can fix all sorts of flaws before picture time.

5) Bring a hand mirror to the picture zone. My students like being able to check their looks and make last-minute adjustments. The mirror helped calm jitters and made the kids feel loved. No one else ever thought to bring one.

6) Play stylist during picture time. I have caught and fixed all sorts of little things: hair sticking straight out, carefully curled hair with one piece gone askew at the last second, wardrobe malfunctions. Parents have called to thank me.

7) Have the kids SIT DOWN in a line after their picture is taken. The kids will behave much better if they are sitting down. It’s just harder to get in trouble.

Happy school picture day!

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Sep 28, 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

 

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

 

Chill Music for the Classroom

Lately, I’ve been really into the Soundscapes channel on my cable TV.  The background music helps me focus while I write, and this keeps me from getting up and making snacks.  (A really good one: Frozen Banana Boppers, courtesy of my prankster character Chris.)

I have developed criteria for evaluating music to listen to while you study.  The perfect background music has a calm, steady beat, is written in mostly major keys (too much minor is just depressing), has no lyrics, and isn’t too peppy or catchy.  (No Eine Kleine Nachtmusik while you study.)

Following these principles, I have found some CDs that work like magic with my students.  We all focus much better with these CDs, and when I deviate from them, we tend to have problems.  Here are some recommendations:

Feng Shui Harmony Balance Energy: This CD is magic!  It has mysterious child-calming properties.  The class always falls silent when I play this CD.  I use it sparingly so the effect doesn’t wear off.

Classical Music for Reading: This mix features some of the big names in classical composition and works very well.  Fun fact: I bought this for my class on a trip to Mexico where I also purchased two foam puzzles of the human sistema digestivo.  You can buy the album on Amazon—much easier although less fun.

Poeta by Al Conti: This is a nice calm instrumental album with a New Age sound.  It’s very soothing and is probably the disc we spin most often.  Fun fact: before Al was a composer, he was a soap opera star.

Touch the Sun: I came across composer Eric McCarl on Soundscapes.  This is soothing and pleasant piano music that everyone enjoys.

Classical Music to Study To: After stumbling across Classical Music for Reading, I started getting into pre-selected mixes.  This one is very good, too.  Several of the songs are in minor keys, and they’ll definitely slow you down a little.

Art of the Guitar: Andres Segovia and John Williams: This is a soporific collection of Bach preludes.  I remember I used to play one of them on the piano and if I didn’t watch the sheet music, I’d lull myself into a stupor and just keep looping the song.  It was good background music, though.  This CD is good for calming students to the extreme; not so good for inducing critical thinking.  Still, there is a time and place for this album.

Touched By the Sea: Uplifting Piano Solos: Silvard is another artist I discovered on Soundscapes.  His original compositions are just perfect for background music.  My students and I find it calming and pleasant.

Posted in Classroom Management,Classroom setup,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Aug 2, 2011

 

Guilt Points

In my class, we have students divided into table groups.  The groups can earn points for good behavior, academic achievement—lots of things.

My best invention ever was Guilt Points.  I use Guilt Points to alleviate my guilt over an injustice or indignity my students have suffered.  Guilt Points give compensation to the wronged party and let us all move on.

Examples:

* I said the wrong name.  The two students I confused each earn a Guilt Point.  (This is the most common reason for earning a Guilt Point in my classroom.)
* I mixed up the identical twins—again!
* You raised your hand, and I just didn’t see you.
* Thanks to your contrition, I feel bad about making you refocus.

Guilt Points give students an appeals process, which is often necessary in the fast-and-furious world of classroom justice.  I love it when students ask for guilt points for another student: it shows that kids look out for each other.  It is also interesting when students tell each other that a consequence suffered was deserved and that there is no merit for their Guilt Point plea.

I think Guilt Points say something about our classroom system of justice.  Guilt Points tell students that I have their well-being at heart, and that I always try to be fair.

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 2, 2011

 

How to Help Your Substitute Teacher

Substitute teachers can have a rough job, but there are ways to make their lives better.  At the same time you help your sub, you help your students have a better learning environment during their beloved teacher’s (your) absence.

A current class roster:  As the year progresses, most teachers don’t think about their class rosters – they know every student without a list.  But subs don’t know your class, and if there’s an inaccurate roster in your sub files, the very first moments of the day can go badly.

Star students:  Leave a note that suggests which students your sub can call upon to get a good lesson going.  It shouldn’t be the same student for everything.  Name a few math whizzes, a couple of students who read aloud well…you get the idea.  That way, subs can call on students with confidence and the class will learn more.  Or at least learn the right things!

Posted in Substitutes,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Mar 23, 2011

 

Origami in the Classroom—Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

You might think origami lessons are fun: a good way to teach spatial relationships and following directions.

If you think these things, you probably have not tried to teach origami to 30 elementary school children.

Teachers don’t like origami!  Teaching the lessons is difficult—students don’t pay attention, they don’t understand, and the lesson quickly devolves into one frantic teacher rushing to help 27 students at once.  (Three understood perfectly the first time.)

There’s another reason teachers dislike origami—paper-folding doesn’t stop after the lesson.  Students will make origami all year if you don’t develop and enforce a strong policy.  Your paper supply will be gone, and in its place you’ll find:

> Cootie catchers
> Claws (dozens and dozens of them!)
> Paper Airplanes
> Poppers
> Origami balloons
> And, or course paper cranes (You read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, didn’t you?)

I learned this lesson from one of my fifth grade classes.  It started innocently enough, with two boys making origami claws.  The other students tried to warn me to ban all origami, and I should have listened.  I didn’t institute the ban until after finding that somehow, these boys had had cleared us out of Kleenex by creating dioramas inside their desks.  They had cute little scenes, with Kleenex props and origami figures.  What a mess!

…And that is why I highly recommend that you outlaw origami in your classroom.

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Mar 4, 2011

 

Name and Number Song

No-name papers are such a pain!  Sing this little song every time you hand out a worksheet or test to remind students to write their name and number.  Students memorize this song the first time they hear it, and it really is a good reminder.  An additional bonus: when kids are singing when you pass out papers, they’re not chatting.

Name and Number Song
To the tune of “Frère Jacques” (Are You Sleeping?)

Name and number, name and number,
Write it down!  Write it down!
If you do not write it,
We won’t know who did it.
Write it down!  Write it down!

“Wait just a minute!” you say, “Why does the word ‘it’ appear so many times in the song?  Surely the lyrics could use better grammar and diction?”

Trust me, this is the tried and true way I’ve learned to teach this song: it’s simple, so the kids learn it quickly and it works–their names actually do end up on their papers.

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Feb 24, 2011

 

Student Numbers

Many elementary school teachers assign a number to each of their students, usually in alphabetical order by last name: Josie Abraham is 1, Chris Bradford is 2, etc.

Parents who aren’t accustomed to using student numbers sometimes question this system.  Is their child being reduced to a number?  Fear not—student numbers are nothing like Jean Valjean’s “Who am I? 24601” identity crisis in Les Misérables.  Teachers still call students by name! The student number is merely an administrative helper.

Student numbers make it easy to think through the class in alphabetical order.  That way, the teacher doesn’t forget anyone.  Examples:

Fire drill.  Did we all escape the building?

Roll call.  Are we all here?

Quick poll of class.  (Student 1, did you read your AR book last night?  Student 2, did you?)

Student numbers are shorthand for recordkeeping.  Examples:

Lunch count: students move numbered magnets to indicate their choice

Mailboxes: students turn in (and receive) papers in numbered file boxes.  The teacher can use the same numbered file boxes year after year.  (Most teachers buy these file boxes with their own money!)

Track assignments as they are turned in: the teacher can mark or cross off a student’s number on a master number sheet for each assignment.

Student numbers organize a crowd.  Examples:

Tell students to line up in number order.  (It’s the same order every time—no need for kids to jockey for position.)

Take turns for doing things in number order. (Usually for a participatory activity—avoids claims that Kayla went first last week, etc.)

At the start of each school year, many students are excited to learn which number they will be assigned this year.  Most students memorize the names and corresponding numbers of their classmates, as well.

Student numbers.  As Martha Stewart would say, it’s a good thing!


 

Happy New Year! Tips for returning to school after Winter Break

Teachers and students know that the new year really begins on the first day of school.  January 1st is like a new beginning for us.

Here are some of my plans and resolutions for the second half of the school year:

Review procedures on the first day back.  A break that feels too-short to the teacher feels like forever to the kids.  They will have forgotten so much—in academics and in classroom behavior.

Renew our focus on basic facts.  It takes an iron will to force students to memorize, but I know that knowledge will serve them well.  We’ll practice in many ways: with Dad’s Worksheets, Best Multiplication Songs EVER!, my math addition and multiplication practice programs, and the classroom game Math Smackdown.

Set new goals for independent reading.  We’ll set goals for reading a certain number of chapter books, a certain number of books in each genre, etc.  We’ll work toward a fun celebration, like Fort Day.

Forge on with our typing.  Our school district bought special computers to help students build typing skills.  The students love them—but again it takes a teacher’s iron will to force them to focus and practice.  I know that good typing skills pay off for a lifetime: it’s worth it!

Make time for fun.  Community builders, energizer activities and parties to celebrate accomplishments bring us closer together.

…so those are my classroom resolutions!  But school’s not in yet.  I’m working up my appetite for the traditional New Year’s black eyed peas and greens.  Learn more about the tradition at about.com.

Posted in Classroom Management,Holidays,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 1, 2011