School’s out, but bargains are in

When school lets out for the summer, teachers who are retiring, moving or taking a new position often sell or donate class supplies they purchased themselves.

This is a boon for current teachers!

Check out Craigslist, eBay and other sources for great bargains.  I have found a document camera, class sets of books, workbooks, art supplies and much more.

Search for teacher supplies, classroom supplies, class sets of books, and just plain “teacher.”

May and June are good months for this, but so are August and September, when school is back in session.

Posted in Classroom Management,Classroom setup,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 28, 2010


Pack up the classroom while you still have 30 helpers

Girl with BroomEvery year, teachers take apart the contents of their classroom so that the school can be deep cleaned over the summer.  It’s a huge job.

Let the kids help!  This year, I’m trying to have everything packed while I still have 30 helpers.  There are some very important academic lessons that can be integrated with these activities.  My students love doing classroom jobs, and packing up for summer is one community-building, super fun job!

While we packed up last year, I taught my students about bucket brigades, weaving in a lesson about the history of volunteer fire departments and how towns depended on volunteers cooperating to provide a vital service in times of need.  We also discussed how the military accomplished massive movements of troops and resources using the same principles we were using in our classroom.  The boys really loved this topic!

Make two lists, and write them on the board.  One list is for jobs everyone should do.  Once these are completed, students can tackle the community service list.  It’s extra fun if they get to sign the board by jobs they completed.

Everyone must:
  –Clean out their own desk
–Erase pencil marks in textbooks
–Place textbooks in designated area
–Pack up their own supplies for home
–Return classroom library books to their rightful place
–Pick up scraps under or near their desk
–Return class supplies to their proper place
–Recycle paper from their desk (or take it home)

Community Service:
  –Organize class library
–Empty teacher’s bookshelf (workbooks, professional books)
–Organize game cabinet
–Help slowpokes
–Clean countertops
–Clean the lunch bucket (we use it to carry cold lunches to the cafeteria)
–Wipe down cabinets
–Organize ____ (whatever you want organized—often the kids will do it better than you could)
–Box up supplies (as needed)

When everything is finished, clean the student desks.  I recommend Oxi-Clean.  Mix a little with water in a container.  YOU do the first wipe down of desks, so kids don’t touch the Oxi-Clean solution.  Kids come behind you with clean rags.  Give the kids a clean-water bucket and ask them to rinse the rags often.  The desks will be sparkling clean in 15 minutes! (Hint: you don’t need real buckets.  I use plastic shoeboxes that hold supplies and organize our class library books.)

Other tasks:

In fifteen to twenty more minutes, you and the students can Oxi-Clean chairs, countertops, and cubbies.

Cover the shelves with butcher paper to keep dust off everything.  Just for fun, the kids could decorate the butcher paper.  It’s a fun community-building activity… you will need these after you no longer have desks.

On the last day of school, plan fun activities that don’t involve desks.  Game day is a popular option.  Kids tell me they love giant Twister (using construction paper to make a class-size Twister board).  I haven’t been brave enough to try it.

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Posted in Classroom Management,Classroom setup,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 26, 2010


Showing thanks with class books

Near the end of the school year is a good time for students to show appreciation for the people who contribute to the success of every student in the school.  Class books are an excellent way to thank school personnel and build classroom community. From an educational standpoint, you will enjoy seeing how hard students work to polish their writing when it is intended as a gift.

A class book can be a collection of illustrated essays, letters, poetry, or all of the above.  Here are some examples of class books my students enjoyed creating:

Reading Takes us Places: A thank-you for our librarian.  We wrote and illustrated essays about places we had visited through reading.

You Direct the First Grade Musical: after my students saw a rehearsal for the first grade musical, I asked them to imagine being in charge of directing such a large group of very young performers.  My students wrote essays taking the point of view of the music teacher, describing how they would feel about directing the performance.  We gave this to the teacher before the first grade musical.  I noticed a difference in the way my class watched the performance.  After the opening song, a few turned to me and whispered “Whew!  That went well, thank goodness.”

Outrageous Requests of the Building Manager: We created a book of silly essays detailing outrageous requests, like a zip line on the playground, a swimming pool with a three-story waterslide, and a video game arcade.  The illustrations were especially funny!  This was an appreciation present for the building manager.

I hope these ideas inspire class book projects of your own.  Ask your students for ideas—they will impress you with their creativity!

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Posted in Classroom Management,Fun With Literacy,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 24, 2010


We are over it!

Class antics are the best part of being in a classroom.  Little jokes, silly comments, humorous little happenings—they keep us going during long days of lessons.

A student falls out of her chair in a fit of giggles.  The classroom sink explodes, sending water gushing to the ceiling.  The puppy visiting the class next door wanders into our classroom.  A bird smashes into our window (but lives to tell the tale).

Funny!  A break from the ordinary!  A HUGE DISTRACTION!

In my class, we celebrate these moments, but then get back to work.  How?

We do a little cheer: “We are over it!”  And then we move on.

Try it—it works!

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Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 20, 2010


Point & Focus

I learned this tip for helping ADHD kids focus, but it can help every child learn.

It’s simple: touch the child’s shoulder and simultaneously point to the information, such as a passage in a book or a math problem on a worksheet.   Give the child a moment to focus on the material before you begin your explanation or give directions.

If the child cannot maintain his focus, bring your face to the same level of the child’s face and speak softly in his ear.  Encourage him to concentrate on what you are saying.  Explain the material and gently take the child’s hand, helping him touch the material you are explaining.  You might help the child run his finger under a sentence as you read and explain it or tap the answer to a math problem.

This tip works because you activate multiple senses.  The child responds to touch, then sight as you point, and finally to hearing what you say.  It’s a gentle way to focus a child’s attention.

We all know that simply telling a child directions just doesn’t work!

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Posted in Academics,Classroom Management,First Year Teachers,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 18, 2010


Consult special area teachers about individual students

This is part of a series of posts about special area teachers, whose subjects include music, art and physical education.

Teachers, do you have concerns about a particular student?  Suspect a learning disability, ADHD, a social skills or behavior problem?  Don’t forget an important resource: special area teachers, especially those who have been at your elementary school for several years.

– Specials teachers can tell you if what you’re noticing is new or part of a long-established pattern of school behavior for a particular student.

– Special area teachers can help you understand the child better.  For example, if you’re seeing behavior problems in class, but the child behaves well in specials, perhaps academic issues are influencing the behavior.

Say your student has difficulty following directions.  Is it academic?  Attention problems?  Difficulty with less-structured activities?  The special area teacher can share what she sees in her class, and you might get a clearer picture.

Special area teachers can help you make a stronger presentation to gatekeepers for testing and referrals for your students.  Information from you, the parents, and other teachers who work with the child can help the child obtain needed services.

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Posted in Classroom Management,Professional Learning Communities,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 14, 2010


How to work with special area teachers

This is part of a series of posts about special area teachers, whose subjects include music, art and physical education.  Today I’ll discuss how classroom teachers can optimize their relationship with special area teachers and help their students learn more from every “special.”

It all comes down to respecting the teacher and teaching children to reflect on the day’s lesson.

Before the special area class:

Ask your students what they did during the last session.  What do they hope to get out of today’s lesson?

Take a moment to calm your students, so your students are primed for learning when they begin their special area lesson.  My class usually needs a calming thirty seconds in line before a special area class.  It makes a difference.

Leaving your class with the special area teacher:

Greet the teacher by name.  Smile.  Exchange pleasantries about how much your class is looking forward to the lesson.  Without taking a lot of time, show an interest in what the class will be learning.

Make sure the students are calm and ready to learn before you leave the class with the special area teacher.

Picking your class up from the special area class:

Greet the teacher.  Ask if your children behaved well, and promise to follow up if there were any behavior problems.  Ask one student to recap what they learned.  Remind your students to say thank you.

Special area teachers, do you have any additional tips for classroom teachers?  How can we support you?

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Posted in Classroom Management,Professional Learning Communities,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 12, 2010


Special area teachers are EXTRA-special!

This is the first of a series of posts about special area teachers, whose subjects include music, art and physical education.

Teachers of elementary school “specials” —music, art, and physical education— deserve great respect.  Many people don’t know the requirements to be a special area teacher, the work that goes into their professional degrees, or the fascinating extracurricular activities of the teachers themselves.

Special area teachers…
… Perform at Carnegie Hall
… Exhibit (and sell) their work in art galleries
… Compete in triathlons and other prestigious athletic events
… Play in rock bands, jazz bands—all kinds of bands
… Tour Europe with professional music ensembles and acting troupes
… Deserve our respect!

Before I was a full-time teacher, I was a substitute teacher.  When I covered for special area teachers, I was humbled by their curriculum and the challenge of delivering quality lessons to very young students.

I was also struck by how some classroom teachers treated special area teachers with less than professional courtesy.

As a classroom teacher, you have the power to help your students get more out of every special class by teaching them about the talents of special area teachers:
  – Get to know your special area teachers.  Find out what led them to become a music/art/physical education teacher.  You might learn about a childhood spent learning multiple musical instruments, a stint in the minor leagues, or a career in art that led to a desire to teach.
– Communicate this knowledge to your students.  Encourage them to both compliment their special area teacher and learn more from them.
– Communicate this knowledge to other teachers.  You may find that they didn’t know the accomplishments of the special area teachers.

Congratulations, you have made your school a better place!

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Posted in Classroom Management,Professional Learning Communities,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 10, 2010


Why classroom desks are arranged as tables

When parents see my classroom for the first time, many ask why the kids have their desks arranged as tables.   There are many reasons:

> With large class sizes and big desks (ours are 36 inches long!), the desks don’t fit in the classroom any other way.
> Many classrooms have learning centers or tables for small groups to meet with the teachers, and these resources  won’t fit in the classroom when desks are arranged in rows.
> Today’s educational emphasis is on cooperative learning, and tables suit this style.
> Grouping kids in tables often helps behavior: I give team points for good behavior and reward high-achieving teams.
> Grouping kids in tables makes supply distribution easier.  Since we do many projects with art supplies, math manipulatives, science materials, etc. it makes sense to streamline the process.

You might think that sitting at tables looks crowded and confining, but my experience is that kids like small spaces.  When my students listen to a story in the center of the classroom, they crowd together.  One day when I set my class  up at cafeteria tables for a study hall, we used about 20 linear feet of table for 28 students—the kids didn’t want another table so they could spread out.  Kids like to pile up like puppies!

Parents: seeing tables instead of rows may look strange to you, but it’s what your child expects.  Sixth grade often is an exception, where teachers sometimes arrange the room in rows to help students prepare for junior high.

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Posted in Classroom Management,Classroom setup,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ May 6, 2010


Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar ChavezBy Kathleen Krull
Illustrated by Yuyi Morales (pronounced Ju-ji)
AR Reading Level 3.9; 0.5 points
Available from

Summary: When Cesar Chavez was ten years old, his family had to move from their happy home in Arizona because of drought.  So begins the story of working as a migrant worker in California under increasingly deplorable conditions.  The historic 1965 strike against grape farmers, Cesar Chavez’s efforts to unionize migrant workers, and the dramatic 340 mile march for “La Causa” to California’s capital is the centerpiece of this dramatic and beautifully told story.

Activities: Harvesting Hope  is poetically written, but simple enough for children to understand.  Still, I would read this story aloud.  Students will get much more out of it with an adult to explain the history and classmates to share the experience.  Expect a long classroom discussion.  Students will be indignant to learn that after Cesar broke a school rule against speaking Spanish, the teacher hung a sign on him that read “I AM A CLOWN. I SPEAK SPANISH.” Many stores displayed “White Trade Only” signs.

Like Chavez himself did, children will make the natural connections to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi.

This book reminds us all to respect the dignity of every man.

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Posted in Book Reviews,Social Studies by Corey Green @ May 4, 2010