The Emergency Party Supply

Party!My class is famous for our parties.  We love to celebrate our accomplishments!

Sometimes, we all agree an accomplishment must be celebrated right away.  The Emergency Party Supply idea began when I realized that our classroom parties attracted donations from parents in excess of what we could use in one day.  I saved the non-perishables for another day.  My students coined the phrase “Emergency Party” and an institution was born.

The Emergency Party Supply grows throughout the school year.  When we are ready to celebrate a big accomplishment, like everyone learning their math facts or the class winning the district writing contest, we are ready.  Some of our parties may last only ten minutes, but the impact of a celebration lasts a long time.

The Emergency Party Supply can also be helpful on days when everybody is hungry.  I offer snacks on standardized testing days.   I also offer snacks before a field trip — lunch time often gets delayed on those days.  Another “hungry day” is the first day back in school after a long break.  When the kids are accustomed to a different schedule, they can get very hungry before lunchtime.  The kids appreciate a snack so they can continue learning.

The Emergency Party Supply is a good source of small celebrations during the last few days of the school year.  I do not save Emergency Party Supply food from one school year to the next and I never give expired foods to my students.

Parents, ask whether donations of nonperishable snacks for the whole class are welcomed.

Special considerations: Some schools may have restrictions on bringing food items into a classroom.   There may be food allergies in the class.  Check the “sell by” or “use by” date of any food you might donate.  Check with the teacher to see if perishables can be safely stored during the day.

Comments Off on The Emergency Party Supply
Posted in Classroom Management,Classroom setup,Food,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Nov 30, 2009


American Girls and history class

American Girls SeriesThe American Girl series is a wonderful teaching tool.  The books and movies give girls a frame of reference for understanding important periods in United States history.

The American Girl books are grouped into series.  Each character has a book for her birthday, a holiday, a school story, etc.  The core books for each girl feature a wonderful section at the back of the book that ties the story in with history.  This section always has pictures of artifacts from the relevant historical period.

You can also buy American Girl mysteries.  There are far too many to list!

I recommend the American Girls books for grades 3 and up.  You can buy boxed sets of all books for each American girl.  The boxed sets are a good value because students read them over and over.

The American Girls books, in chronological order:

Kaya 1764: a Native American Girl

Felicity Merriman, 1774: a horse-loving girl caught between Patriot and Loyalist family and friends during the American Revolution

Josefina Montoya, 1824: lives in New Mexico when it was part of Mexico

Kirsten Larson, 1854: a Swedish immigrant who settles in the Minnesota Territory

Addy Walker, 1864: a fugitive slave who escapes to Pennsylvania during the Civil War

Samantha Parkington, 1904: an orphan being raised by a wealthy family during the Victorian period

Rebecca Rubin, 1914: a Jewish girl growing up in the Lower East Side of New York City

Kit Kittredge, 1934: faces the hard times of the Great Depression

Molly McIntire, 1944: keeps the home fires burning during World War II

Julie Albright, 1974: A San Francisco girl facing the changes of the mid-1970s

Observation: Although the American Girls books are popular, I usually have to push them on students.  Once I get one girl hooked, American Girl fever spreads through the classroom.  Usually, the boys end up reading the books, too.  The girls are careful not to embarrass the boys about reading these books.

American Girls Movies:  Felicity, Samantha and Kit each have their own movie.  (You can buy them in a 3-movie set, too.)  The movies are of very high quality and I enjoy using them in the classroom.  American Girl also features a wonderfully positive magazine and a plethora of dolls.

Getting the Boys to Buy In to Watching the Movies: I aways explain to the class that I understand the movies are about girls, but I think the boys in the class also will enjoy the movies.  I ask the girls in my class to promise not to tease the boys or tell students in other classes how much the boys in our class enjoy the movies.

Comments Off on American Girls and history class
Posted in Academics by Corey Green @ Nov 27, 2009


Beetle McGrady Eats Bugs!

bookBy Megan McDonald
AR Reading Level 2.6; 0.5 points
Available at
Summary: Beetle McGrady is a plucky character.  She has red hair and freckles.  Beetle wants to eat bugs, because where would the story be otherwise?  Beetle also is learning about the food pyramid in second grade.  At the end of the unit, a chef comes to school and makes all sorts of bug dishes for the kids to try. 

Activities: The author got the idea from a Bug Day at a museum in San Francisco.  Reading this book in a classroom setting could become a giggle fest.  Kids would love to draw bug dishes and make up recipes.  If my students came across this book, I would be happy for them to read it independently.

Comments Off on Beetle McGrady Eats Bugs!
Posted in Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Nov 23, 2009


Five tips for getting kids into line

Get In Line!In elementary school, students travel together in a single-file line.  Many times during the day, your class will find it necessary to line up and go somewhere.  Forming a line seems so simple:  Hands to yourself.  Face forward.  Walk evenly behind the person in front of you.

Why do students have such a hard time walking in line? I have yet to break the code on inspiring truly perfect lines, but I do have some tips:

  1.  Slow down!  My students taught me this.  Adults walk much faster than children.  When the teacher walks too fast, kids straggle.    Some students have to run a few steps to close the gap between themselves and the person they follow.  When I walked at an appropriate pace, the line improved.
  2. “Stare at the hair.”  For some reason, this little saying helps students keep behind the next person in line.  Having a focal point helps kids focus.
  3. Line up in number order.  Most teachers assign class numbers to their students at the beginning of the year.  Lining up in numerical order eliminates jockeying for a prime position in line.
  4. Assign students a line marker.  In our hallways, students can line up easily by each taking one square in the floor tile.  If you have tile floors, give this a try.
  5. Sing a little song as you line up.  When the song is finished, everyone had better be in line properly.  Non-compliant kids can be invited to write sentences about how to line up properly.  Some teachers have students recite Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes with the same idea: be in line by the time the rhyme is finished.  A bonus is that reciting nursery rhymes builds fluency, phonemic awareness, and cultural knowledge.

If all else fails, repeat, repeat, repeat!  If your class misbehaves in line, invite them to go back to the classroom and do it again.  Being late to fun classes like PE is a good motivator for efficiency in forming a line.

I know repetition is supposed to cure students of misbehaving in line, but I have found that many kids really don’t mind the practice.  Even so, line discipline is important.  Consider holding remedial line practice during recess.  In a flash, students will be motivated to get into line efficiently to preclude future  line practice sessions during recess!

Comments Off on Five tips for getting kids into line
Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Nov 18, 2009


Dav Pilkey: inspiration for reluctant readers

Captain UnderpantsDav Pilkey’s humorous style is perfect for reluctant readers.

His most famous books, the Captain Underpants series, turn children into chapter book readers.

Dav Pilkey’s appeal goes far beyond that.

Part of the attraction to readers and teachers: Dav Pilkey writes in series.  Once you hook a child on one Dav Pilkey book, there is usually a series to be explored.  By the time the child reads one Pilkey series, he craves another.  Soon, you have hooked the child on reading.

Check out the Dumb Bunnies books, about a truly stupid family of rabbits.  My favorite is The Dumb Bunnies’ Easter (AR level 2.7, 0.5 points), a mishmash of holidays that the bunnies get completely wrong.  (Santa Claus is the Easter Bunny, and he comes in a shiny red minivan pulled by eight flying pilgrims.)

The reading level of the Dumb Bunnies books helps you reach more than one target audience.  Primary students will work hard to be able to read Dumb BunniesDumb Bunnies books are also good high interest/low reading level (hi/lo) choices for struggling middle grade students.

The same holds true for Dav’s Dragon series.  (AR reading level around 2.7)  The books are perfect for primary children, but can be used as a hi/lo choice for older readers.  Once a child reads Dragon’s Fat Cat or Dragon’s Merry Christmas, there is a series to enjoy.

Students who tend to read the easiest picture book possible can be lured into reading harder picture books with titles like Dav Pilkey’s Dogzilla (AR level 4.2, 0.5 points).  Combining a humorous story with hilarious photographic illustrations using Dav’s own dog, Dogzilla will entertain all elementary readers.  After Dogzilla, readers will enjoy Kat Kong (AR level 4.1, 0.5 points).

Create chapter book readers with two of Dav’s series: Ricky Ricotta and Captain Underpants.

Ricky Ricotta is slightly easier.  The books’ AR levels range from 2.9 to 4.1, with most in the 3rd grade range.  Children will enjoy reading about Ricky, a mouse who befriends a giant robot and saves the city from an evil rat scientist named Dr. Stinky McNasty.

Children clamor for Dav Pilkey’s most popular books, Captain Underpants.  They are perfect gateway to reading real chapter books.

Dav Pilkey can be an important part of your classroom reading program!

Comments Off on Dav Pilkey: inspiration for reluctant readers
Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR),Book Lists,Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Nov 11, 2009


Cheap “whiteboards” for no-budget classrooms

Student dry-erase whiteboards are a wonderful learning tool.  They save paper and make learning interactive.  With students using whiteboards, I can assign a problem, have students try it, then I can quickly assess who needs more help.

Some schools ask parents to buy the whiteboards as part of school supplies, but then classrooms end up with a mishmash of varying styles.  There are always kids who do not have whiteboards.  Sometimes the whiteboards don’t erase completely.  It seems like when one dry erase marker runs out of ink, the whole supply of markers dries up.

I recently found a cheap alternative when I realized how easy it is to write on page protectors with dry erase markers.  Page protectors erase perfectly!  Now, I put worksheets in page protectors.  Many students can take turn practicing skills on that worksheet, using only one sheet of paper in the process.

Why not put a plain white card stock in the page protector?  It will provide a plain white surface that kids can use just like a white board.  Even a piece of plain white paper works for this purpose.

Comment: White board markers can be expensive.  Sometimes you can find terrific bargains at the beginning of the school year.  One year I found a four-pack of markers for a dollar.   This was great because the markers often cost a dollar each.

Suggestion: Parents, whiteboard barkers are a wonderful present for teachers.  Clean unwearable white socks make great erasers — send them in for the class!

Posted in Classroom Management,Classroom setup,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Nov 2, 2009