Beat Summer Math Slide: Estimating

Students experience summer slide in every subject.  Here are some fun tips for helping your child with a difficult topic: estimating.

By estimating, I mean two different skills.  One is estimating measurements.  The other is using rounding to estimate an answer to a problem.  (526 +375 = about 900 if you round to the nearest hundred)

Fun with a tape measure*:  Simply give your kids a tape measure and challenge them to hone their estimating skills.  About how long is your kitchen?  How far to the sidewalk?  Is the length of your driveway closer to 10, 20 or 100 feet?  Should you measure the height of your cat in inches, feet or yards?  This is a pleasant way to spend a summer afternoon.

If your kids and their friends are enterprising, they could each make up their own challenges, writing little worksheets with measuring tasks.  It’s like playing school, but more active.

Fun with a scale: This is a lot like Fun with a Tape Measure, but with measurements of weight.  Your child can develop a sense of what things weigh.  How much does cereal weigh?  Dishes?  The family dog?  A book?

Shopping estimation: Running errands really does provide lots of ways to incorporate math.  Simply ask little word problems as you go.  If I buy this item for $2.95 and that item for $4.25, about how much will I spend?  Once your child is good at answering this type of question, challenge her to figure the rough amount of change from a nice round figure like $10.

*Fun with whatever—a tongue-in-cheek way to make any task fun.  Sort of.  It helps!   Read the blog post for classroom examples.

Posted in Academics,Math,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Jul 17, 2017

 

The Second of July: “the most memorable epoch in the history of America”

I always imagine John Adams as the nerdy know-it-all of the Founding Fathers, the guy who was never quite cool*. Nothing illustrates this so well as his earnest prediction that July 2nd was gonna be a big day:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”— July 3, 1776 letter to Abigail

Americans celebrate the date on the document, not the date the resolution was approved in a closed session of Congress. We all know that we’ll be partying on the Fourth. Let’s take the Second to do our homework and learn a little about the holiday.

Because the Census Bureau is all about the fun: peruse their Fun Facts about the Fourth of July. I liked their comparison of who will be celebrating in the USA: over 311 million now versus 2.5 million then. Also, did you know that more than 1 in 4 hot dogs consumed on the Fourth of July originated from Iowa?

View the Declaration of Independence from the Archives web site.

Read John Adams’ letter describing the 1777 Fourth of July celebration.

That treasure trove of Internet research, Wikipedia, publishes a useful Fourth of July page.

*My basis for this assumption: the “Sit Down, John!” number from the musical 1776 . This is such a fun movie. I get a kick out of watching Gwyneth’s mom as Martha Jefferson. There are powerful moments, too. The best is “Molasses to Rum to Slaves.” (Note: according to an Amazon review, this song is not in the director’s cut DVD.)

Posted in Academics,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jul 2, 2017

 

Juneteenth (June 19th)

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”—Read by Major General Granger to the people of Texas, June 19, 1865.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. On this day in 1865, the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the war was over and the slaves were now free.

I wish this date fell during the school year, because it would be so meaningful for students. Still, we can learn and celebrate today, take the lessons with us back to school.

How can you celebrate Juneteenth? Learn about the history and search for Juneteenth events in your area.

I highly recommend visiting Juneteenth.com, the comprehensive source for all things Juneteenth. You can learn more about Juneteenth at the Smithsonian, in this article that complements a special exhibit.

Posted in Academics,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jun 17, 2017

 

The New Colossus: Teaching Notes and Vocabulary

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

Emma Lazarus’s inspiring poem is engraved on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty.  Many people only know the famous ending, but reading the whole sonnet gives a much deeper meaning.

“The New Colossus” makes a wonderful memorization challenge.  Your students can handle it—my third graders sure did!

The title refers to the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  The Colossus of Rhodes was a huge statue of the titan Helios, constructed to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over Cyprus.

America’s Statue of Liberty is “The New Colossus,” symbolizing welcome, freedom and hope.

I hope you and your students will enjoy my teaching notes and vocabulary handout.  It gives background information and lays the poem and relevant vocabulary words side-by-side.  Having all this information on one sheet will help your students understand and memorize the poem.

Memorization tips:

  1. Give a deadline:  Students will work harder if they have a deadline.  Memorize the poem alongside your students.  Offer a reasonable deadline—I chose two weeks—but you can tell students that if they don’t have it learned by then, they’ll get an extension.
  2. Offer a reward.  My class’s reward was an ice cream sundae.  I expected about five students to take the time to memorize, but 35 students qualified! (Tip: when you’re making that many sundaes, save yourself the trouble of scooping and buy the little ice cream cups.)
  3. Study and analyze the poem:  Students learn and memorize more effectively if they understand the material.  Work as a class to find examples of metaphor and symbolism.
  4. Memorize in sections.  Begin with the most famous lines, “Give me your tired…”  Then, go back to the beginning and memorize in sections.  Practice each section over and over.  Don’t move on until you know that section cold.
  5. Don’t worry about the lines.  Sometimes one thought continues onto another line.  Focus on meaning, not form.
  6. Memorize with your students.  When you undertake to memorize this yourself, you’ll come across tips and tricks to help your students.
  7. Finally, appreciate the poem’s beauty.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

You can read about “The New Colossus” at Wikipedia.  Be sure to click and read about the Colossus of Rhodes.  Visit the Statue of Liberty’s official site, as well.

Posted in FREE Worksheets,Social Studies,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 13, 2017

 

History of the Easter Parade (with clips from Fred & Judy’s star performance)

Watch the clip of Judy Garland and Fred Astaire performing Irving Berlin’s classic song “Easter Parade” and teach your students a little history!

Easter Parade is a classic MGM musical. It is a Pygmalion story about a famous dancer who is abandoned by his dancing partner and bets that he can turn anyone into a better partner than she was. His random protégé is Judy Garland, so you know that the singing-and-dancing act will (eventually) turn out well. Of course, Fred and Judy’s characters fall in love, and the finale finds the happy couple walking in New York’s Easter Parade.

Teaching Tips: New York’s Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue was an important institution for decades. It began as in impromptu event in the 1870s as couples showed off their finery while admiring the Easter flowers at the sanctuaries of the city’s most beautiful churches. Over the years, the floral displays and elegant dress grew more and more ornate. By 1947, the Easter Parade drew over a million people.

Your students will be interested to learn that both Easter parades and new clothes for the holiday have a long tradition. Easter processions have been a part of Christianity since the first Holy Week., and Christians in Eastern Europe would gather together and walk in a solemn procession to church on Easter Sunday. The clergy have long worn special garb for Easter, and in Tudor times, superstitious parishioners believed that if you didn’t wear new clothes for Easter, moths would eat your old threads.

When I teach my class about the classic “Easter Parade” song, I never lose sight of a very important lesson: teaching students to analyze just how Judy Garland gives another stellar performance. Not a move, gesture, or vocal intonation is wasted. She is a star for the ages!

*Fun Fact: Sydney Sheldon, author of many novels of suspense, wrote the screenplay for Easter Parade.

**Fun Fact: Irving Berlin first used the tune for “Easter Parade” in a song called “Smile and Show your Dimple.” The song flopped, but he later salvaged the tune and made it into a classic. The stick-with-it lesson, perseverance, is an inspiration for all of us.

Posted in Academics,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Apr 10, 2017

 

FREE April Fools Day Worksheet

Here is a FREE April Fools Day worksheet written by a National Board Certified Teacher. Students will build comprehension skills and practice critical thinking as they learn about the origins of April Fools Day.

April Fools Day began with a calendar change in 19th century France. King Charles IX moved New Year from April 1st to January 1st. News spread slowly through the countryside, so some folks celebrated on the wrong day for years before they learned of the change. Others refused to change and became known as April Fools. It became a tradition to play pranks on them.

Click here for the FREE worksheet.

More April Fools worksheets are available from Classroom Jr. Click here to access them. There is a reading comprehension activity, a writing activity, and a word search. Build reading fluency with these fun and ready-to-print April Fools poems.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays by Corey Green @ Mar 26, 2017

 

Emergency Valentine Cards

Elementary school students just love Valentine’s Day.  Opening Valentine cards and eating little treats is pure fun.  (Click here for my tips for a smooth Valentine’s Day at school.)

Every year, someone forgets their Valentine cards.  In my experience, this has occurred much more frequently since we slipped into this recession.  I expect to have lots of “forgotten” Valentine cards this year.

Fortunately, I have an “Emergency Valentines” supply—multiple boxes of deep-discount Valentine cards I bought after the holiday last year.

Discreetly, I send the student to another classroom to address their Valentines.  In my opinion, this is a much better system than having students make their own emergency Valentines at school the day of the party.  Distributing hastily made Valentines is embarrassing for the giver.  Why do that to a student when you can buy a box of Valentines for a dollar?

If you don’t have an emergency Valentine card supply, start one now by picking up Valentine cards at your local dollar store.  Great idea: buy several boxes so you have enough for Valentine’s Day emergencies in other classrooms.  E-mail teachers at your school about your emergency stash.  You will make friends with teachers and their students you rescue.

After this Valentine’s Day, buy your spare valentine cards for a quarter!

P.S. Don’t forget to pick up paper bags for holding Valentine cards your students receive!

Posted in Classroom Management,Holidays,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Feb 13, 2017

 

Tips for a Smooth Valentine’s Day Party

Valentine penguinValentine’s Day is a fun, low-key holiday.  The most important thing is the Valentine Cards!  Let your class enjoy handing out Valentines, reading them, and munching on a limited amount of treats.

  1. Buy extra boxes of Valentines for kids who don’t have any.  Sometimes it’s a matter of money, or just a too-busy family life; other times an English Language Learner doesn’t have valentine cards because his parents don’t know about this elementary school tradition.  Parents, an extra set of valentines makes a nice donation to your child’s class.  Teachers, buy extra Valentines at the Dollar Store.  I also buy Valentines at 75% off after the holiday for next year’s supply.
  2. Decorate Valentines bags: Let your students color designs on plain white paper lunch bags.  This is a good way to channel Valentine excitement on the morning of the party.
  3. Learn about Saint Valentine: Why not bring a little history to the day?  Report highlights from Saint Valentine on Wikipedia to your class.  Or read aloud from a book:   Saint Valentine by Robert Sabuda is a good choice. (AR Reading Level 5.4; 0.5 points)  With beautiful illustrations and simple text, this is a good Read Aloud for elementary school.
  4. Watch a movie: Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown is sure to be a hit!  With all the Chimpunks mania of late, let your class go old-school and watch the animated show, Alvin & the Chipmunks: A Chipmunk Valentine.
  5. Limit the treats: I recommend just one treat–and make it good, like a cupcake.  This way, the focus is on cards and classmates–and nobody gets sugar high.  I ask parents to send in Valentine’s sale treats after the holiday for our Emergency Party Supply.

Teachers: Keep a hefty supply of thank you notes!   I keep them on hand so I am always ready to write a thank you note immmediately.

Posted in Classroom Management,Holidays,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Feb 6, 2017

 

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns is a beautiful picture book that brings Islamic culture to life in vivid color.  The book is beautifully illustrated and features charming, soothing rhymes on each luscious double page spread.  “Red is the rug Dad kneels on to pray…Blue is the hijab Mom likes to wear…”

There are many ways to use this book in the classroom:

  • regular readaloud; using this as just another story
  • springboard for a writing exercise–students could use color to illustrate an aspect of their lives: “Yellow is the pencil I use on my test; it helps me do my very best”
  • favorite parts: ask students to write a paragraph about their favorite double page spread in the book.  Mine were the titular golden domes and silver lanterns
  • structure for a research project: students can research any subject, from space to Queen Victoria to the history of Iran, and then create a report that uses color, the alphabet, or some other similarly simple structure to report on the subject

About Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns

Written by Hena Khan, illustrated by  Mehrdokht Amini

Published by Chronicle books in 2015

AR book level 2.4   AR points 0.5

Posted in Uncategorized by Corey Green @ Jan 31, 2017

 

Groundhog Day including a FREE Worksheet

Groundhog Day is a fun, low-stress holiday for the elementary classroom.

Teach your students about the history of Groundhog Day using my Groundhog Day Worksheet.  You will find vocabulary definitions, think and respond questions, and a fun tongue twister about woodchucks.  (Did you know a woodchuck and a groundhog are the same creature?)

Visit Groundhog.org, the official website of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, for pictures, articles, and resources for teachers.  (I like the songs to the tune of “Winter Wonderland” and “Up on the Housetop.”)

“Punxsutawney” [puhngk-suh-taw-nee ] originally was settled by the Delaware Indians.
The name derives from a Native American term which translates to “town of the sandflies.”
The town is located in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, 84 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Here is a quick brush-up on Groundhog Day history from my worksheet:

Groundhog Day is a holiday celebrated on February 2nd.  According to folklore, if it is cloudy when the groundhog emerges from its burrow, the groundhog will leave the burrow, signaling that winter will soon end.  If it is not cloudy, the groundhog will see its shadow and retreat back into the burrow.  Winter will continue for six more weeks.

Groundhog Day began as a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition in the 18th and 19th centuries (1700s and 1800s).  In Pennsylvania today, you can see official Groundhog Day early morning festivals.  You can enjoy special food, hear speeches, and even watch a g’spiel (play or skit).  You might find that only the Pennsylvania German dialect is spoken.  Those who speak English at the event pay a penalty, usually a coin per English word spoken, to a bowl at the center of the table.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays by Corey Green @ Jan 30, 2017

 

Fun Facts about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s School Days

Students love to learn about Martin Luther King, Jr., but his achievements seem inaccessible to them. For kids, Dr. King was a fully-formed civil rights leader who always knew just what to do.

You can inspire children by teaching them about Dr. King’s school days. Then they will understand that he had to face obstacles, study, and learn. Kids feel so powerless sometimes—it’s good to show them that famous people were once children, and that everyone was a beginner at some point.

You and your class would enjoy taking Valerie Strauss’s MLK Quiz: His unorthodox education. Here are some no-context tidbits to get kids interested:

Did you know Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. …

> Was kicked out of school? (Okay, so it was kindergarten, and it was only because he was too young. Got your attention, though!)

> Was called an underachiever by his college professors?

> skipped two grades?

> thought about studying law or medicine?

Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jan 23, 2017

 

Teaching Notes for Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, you may want to show the “I Have a Dream” speech to your students.  I have found that this speech is captivating for elementary school students, but it is absolutely necessary for you to teach them about the speech before they listen.

I’d like to share my teaching notes (pdf) on MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech with you and your students.  I hope it helps you teach the historical context, allusions, and rhetorical techniques.  If you copy my teaching notes for your students, I suggest you read the speech with them and explain the context.  Then, listening to Dr. King give the speech will be an unforgettable experience for your students.

Why are teaching notes so important?  The “I Have a Dream” speech is rich in allusions: historical, biblical, and even financial.  Your students will appreciate these allusions—if they know about them.

Take the first few paragraphs: will your students understand the significance of the speech’s setting, the Lincoln Memorial, and the phrase “a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today” if you don’t explain these details?  Will your students understand how the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution compare to a promissory note?  My teaching notes explain these details clearly.

What about the famous part of the speech, at the end?  For example, knowledge of geography is essential to understanding the “let freedom ring” section.  Dr. King begins it with “let freedom ring…” [in famous landmarks of northern and western states]… “But not only that.  Let freedom ring…” in famous landmarks in the southern states.]  The sequence will be more memorable for your students if they understand this distinction.  Without teaching notes, your students might miss much of the meaning.

I recommend you buy the Martin Luther King Jr. – I Have a Dream speech on DVD rather than listen to the speech through the Internet.  This DVD introduces the speech with real footage of events leading up to it.  You can also watch a featurette about the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.  Your students will enjoy seeing the marchers and will be impressed with how well-dressed the marchers are.  (Every year, this is the first thing my students notice.)

Free “I Have a Dream” speech at AmericanRhetoric.com

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jan 16, 2017

 

Teach the 2016 Presidential Election

Teaching government is most fun during a presidential election year. These resources will help you and your students learn about the 2016 election. Election day is November 8, 2016.

The following resources and lessons help you teach government basics and how to choose a candidate—while steering clear of contentious politics.

Schoolhouse Rock Election Videos

Watch these at the official Disney site and avoid embarrassing YouTube moments (scroll down the Disney page to where the “Watch Videos” section appears):

Electoral College
I’m Just a Bill
Presidential Minute
Preamble
No More Kings

Icivics has created an excellent packet to teach the electoral process. You will enjoy these worksheets with pleasing design yet meaty information.

Teach students to evaluate candidates—but take today’s politics out of it! The Icivics Candidate Evaluation packet is a ready-to-use unit that lets your students compare two fictitious candidates.

FREE online debate game: The Icivics Cast Your Vote game lets kids run the debate! Two fictitious debate important (but not too controversial) issues. Students choose which question to ask and then decide which candidate they agree with. At the end, they get to vote. A printout shows how often they agreed with that candidate and how strongly. Students will probably find that no one candidate reflects all their views; voters have to make a judgment call on what’s important to them.

Your judgment call: will you make your students write an essay about their debate game? Why or why not?

Learn about voting rights: who got the vote and when? What are barriers to voting? This Icivics lesson packet gives you everything you need to teach the topic of voting rights at the elementary level.

The classic site for teaching elections and government: Ben’s Guide to Government: this extensive site gives you materials to teach government to students in grades K-12. For branches of government to the Electoral College, all the information you need is here.

Classic election night homework: give students this Electoral College map coloring page that they can fill out as they watch the election returns. You can also do this the next day at school.

Teacher Tip: the day after a presidential election can be a rough one in the classroom. Some students internalize their parents’ politics. If their candidate didn’t win, kids can be very depressed or angry. Likewise, students whose candidate did win can be insufferably smug. You can talk with students about how after the election, the president represents everyone. Then you might want to move on to a new subject, fun art activity, learning game—anything but elections and government!

Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Nov 2, 2016

 

Make your classroom a tattle-free zone

teacher1My students don’t tattle.  They just don’t.

At the beginning of the year, my students tattle at the appropriate level for their developmental stage.  However, instances of tattling quickly slip to almost zero.

Easy steps to stop tattling in the classroom:

  1. Teach students that unless it involves safety, it’s probably tattling.  It’s important to establish the difference between tattling and a legitimate report of an urgent matter.
  2. Explain to the class that you are actually pretty smart and will notice most instances of wrongdoing without being informed through tattling.
  3. Tell students that you expect them to focus on learning, not tattling.  If a student tattles, assign extra learning opportunities to make up for time spent tattling.  A good learning opportunity might be using the dictionary to define tattling, then using the word in a sentence.
  4. Do not allow comments that begin with another child’s name.  Not only does this cut down on tattling, it forces children to use more sophisticated sentence structure.
  5. Teach your students that by not tattling, they become more loyal to each other.  Would your students like to be in a classroom full of spies?  No?  Well, that’s what happens if they all tattle on each other.  Everyone becomes an informant.
  6. If a child tells on another student, assign the tattlee an appropriate sentence to write, such as “I will not throw paper airplanes.”  Then, have the tattler write “I will not tattle.”
  7. Do not allow children to tattle after recess.  Explain to students that what happens at recess does not belong in the classroom.  Tell your students to let the recess monitor deal with recess-related tattling issues.  Suggest that students use recess time wisely: get away from the offending student and do something fun instead.

Don’t worry: your students will tell you what you really need to know.  You won’t miss out on important information about bullying or safety problems.  You will simply gain more teaching time and a better classroom climate.

More tips for stopping classroom tattling

Information for parents dealing with tattling at home

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 10, 2016

 

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!