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!


 

Back to school: watch out for kids that don’t have a lunch

lunchsandwichSome students are at risk of going hungry during the first days of the school year.  Kids who might qualify for a free or reduced price lunch may not be in the program yet, and they might not have anything to eat.  As a teacher, you can save the day by watching out for these kids.

Walk with your students to lunch during the first days of school.  Stay and watch them go through the lunch line and/or take a seat at the table.  You might notice a student who has neither a hot nor a cold lunch.  Or you might notice a student who gets to the front of the lunch line and is confused when asked for payment.  You can swoop in and save the day.

How you save the day depends on a lot of things.  In one situation, I just paid a student’s account for a few weeks until the school sorted out the situation.  (I did it on the quiet; the student and parent did not know.)  The student was an English Language Learner and the parent was new to the country.  It took a while to explain that there was a program in place and to enroll the child.

You might also be able to speak with the cafeteria manager, social worker or principal.  Someone is going to help make sure that the child gets a lunch.  You will be glad that you noticed the problem and were able to make a difference in a child’s daily life.


 

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

 

Five tips for summer library “shopping”

Going to the library is like shopping without the buyer’s remorse. Wait, scratch that. The library can still offer buyer’s remorse if you check out too many books, the wrong books, or just plain lose books.

Here are my tips on organizing your library haul.

  1. Keep a dedicated library basket (or bag) in the car and at home. The basket at home is so you don’t lose books. When you’re not reading the book, it goes in the basket. When you’re checking out dozens of books at a time, this becomes important. Keep a basket in the car for already-read books so you can drop them off whenever you’re nearby. If you wait for a scheduled trip to the library, you might end up with overdue books.
  2. Teach your child how to select books. Librarians and teachers try, but it might mean more coming from you. Kids pick the strangest books. My third graders will show me their latest library picks and I’ll say things like,“Have you read the first five books in this series that is two grade levels above yours? No? So why did you pick this?” “This book is about the Russian Revolution. Do you have any interest in that? Then why did you pick it?”“This is a tender coming-of-age story about a girl and her horse. You like Transformers and anything about war. Why did you pick it?”Teach your child to really think about whether there is anything he can relate to—the cover, the title, the author, or the first page. If not, pass. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s for you.
  3. Use the five-finger method. At school, books are labeled with their AR levels. Not true at most public libraries. You can check on ARBookfind.com, or you can just use the five finger method. Encourage your child to read the first page aloud and hold up a finger for each word that’s too hard. If your child finds five too-hard words on the first page, the book is too hard. Put it down.
  4. Ask the librarian for advice. Librarians read more than anyone and they know what kids like. You can trust them to help you choose. Just make sure your child understands that while he doesn’t have to read everything the librarian recommends, he has to read enough so as not to annoy her and make her not want to help him next time.
  5. Feel free to take and check out the display books. Librarians set books out on display, like at a bookstore. You’re allowed to borrow these books. The librarian can always find something new to set out. (Hint: for picture books, sometimes it’s random. I’ve found some cool books by reading the random picture books librarians set out.)
Posted in Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Jul 18, 2016

 

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

 

Teach U.S. geography with 6 FREE cumulative quizzes

lectureSix FREE cumulative quizzes make it easy to teach and learn US geography.  Start with easy-to-identify states, then build up until students can label all of them.

I developed this system because I noticed that most students (in any grade) do not know basic U.S. geography.  Rather than teaching geography by region, I decided to teach by ease of memorization.  Level 1 features states that are easy to pick out on the map, usually because of location or shape.  Easily mixed-up states are on higher levels, but students have no trouble learning them because they already know most of the states by then.  The tests also ask students to learn bodies of water, neighboring countries, and the Great Lakes.

The tests are cumulative.  For each level, new states are indicated by a large question mark and previously learned states by a smaller question mark.

For level 3, teach students two tricks: MIMAL is the name of the chef shown in profile on the map.  The states are Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana.  Minnesota is the hat, Louisiana is the boot, and Missouri is the belly.

For the Great Lakes, teach students that Super Man Helps Every One.  From left to right, the lakes are Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario.

Quiz 1

Quiz 2

Quiz 3

Quiz 4

Quiz 5

Quiz 6

U.S. Geography Challenge master goes on the back of each quiz.

Copy the U.S. Geography Challenge page on the back of each map.  One page covers the whole unit.  For extra credit or a treat, students can fill in the states for upcoming lessons.  The US Geography Challenge page gives postal codes for each state.   I recommend students use those codes on the map.  It’s easier than squishing in state names and a good way to learn the postal codes.

Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Apr 25, 2016