Encourage Kids to Take AR Vocabulary Tests

argenrechallengeThe Accelerated Reader program is so much more than comprehension tests about each book.  Many books have vocabulary tests, too.  The vocabulary test has the same quiz number as the regular test.

At our school, AR is set up to offer students the vocabulary test as soon as they complete the reading practice test.  Encourage your students to do the vocabulary tests.  They improve vocabulary and reading comprehension.  If students do enough, you will see an increase in reading level.

Since Accelerated Reader levels are determined by Star Reading, which is a test of vocabulary, the AR vocabulary tests are most directly applicable to raising a student’s Star Reading test score.

You can print labels that list the AR vocabulary words for each book.  Put these in the book cover so students can be sure to notice those words in the text.

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Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR),Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 30, 2010


Graph Paper Improves Handwriting

threeboysSome kids just have terrible handwriting.  The letters are too big, the spacing is a mess, and their finished paper is illegible.  I have found that using the first and second grade style lined paper doesn’t really help older kids.  There is something, though, that does help them: graph paper.

It needs to be graph paper with big squares.  You can print your own from math-drills.com, which is a good site for—you guessed it—math drills at all levels.

I like to use the ½ inch graph paper.  In my experience, it improves handwriting immediately, but the child should keep using it for a few weeks until better handwriting becomes a habit.  The graph paper really helps kids understand spacing, and lets them develop their fine motor skills within the realms of the little boxes.

I have found that it is good to turn the paper sideways, because otherwise the child will write a lot of hyphenated words that continue on to the next line.

The graph paper is also good for lining up math problems.  It’s a lot easier to keep your addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division straight if you have the little boxes helping you line everything up.

Hurray for graph paper!

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 28, 2010


How to Print AR Labels

Until this summer, I labeled my AR books by looking up the book information and writing the reading level, point value and quiz number in each book.  Students and parents helped with this.  It took forever, and it was easy to make a mistake.

Turns out you can just print the labels.  (I used Avery 5260, 1″ by 2 5/8″, 750 labels in a pack.)  Here’s how to do this from your teacher AR account:

1.  Click on Reports
2.  Select School Management*
3.  Under Quiz Management Reports, click Labels–Book
4.  Select Some (so you can select the quizzes you want)
5.  Click Select Quizzes next to the Some button
6.  Choose your quizzes.  The fastest way to search is “title contains.”
7.  Be sure to add the quizzes to your list.  You can select the quantity of labels you want for each book (nice if you have a class set)
8.  Click Save
9.  Click View Report
10.  Click the Print icon on the pdf
11.  When you print, if it doesn’t line up correctly with your labels, be sure to select None for page scaling.  Mine automatically went to Shrink to Fit, and my labels would not print correctly until I overrode the page scaling.
12.  Stick the labels in your books!

*From the school management menu, you can also click to print the AR Vocabulary lists for books that have a vocabulary test.


Turning Notebook Paper Sideways

girlanddteacherNotebook paper, whether wide ruled or college ruled, is great.  It’s cheap, and can be used for many assignments.

Kids and other teachers have taught me that notebook paper is also really useful when it’s turned sideways.  Then you can use the lines to help you line up math problems.  This really helps kids keep everything straight, and makes little mathematicians much more successful.

It’s a quick tip, but a good one.

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Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 21, 2010


Red Ribbon Week

Red Ribbon Week, celebrated during the last week of October, is the nation’s oldest and largest drug prevention program.  It reaches millions of people every year.

Red Ribbon Week was created in honor of Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, an agent for the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration.)  Their job is to keep us safe from drugs and the people who sell them.  Kiki Camarena worked undercover to investigate a major drug group.  He was found out, kidnapped, and killed by the drug cartel.

Many people were inspired by Kiki Camarena, who gave his life to protect us from drugs.  They formed Camarena Clubs that promised to honor Kiki by staying drug-free.  The club’s symbol was a red ribbon, and that is how Red Ribbon Week began.

By wearing a red ribbon, you tell the world that you honor Kiki Camarena and pledge to live a drug-free life.

When your school celebrates Red Ribbon Week, make sure the kids know about Kiki Camarena.  The lessons will be more memorable for them, and students will be proud to honor this courageous man.  Read more about Kiki at the official government site.

Make your Red Ribbon Week fun and meaningful using the DEA’s 101 ideas for fun activities.

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Posted in Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 18, 2010


Water Containers at School

Nowadays, it is very common for kids to bring a container of water or bottled water to school.  I think this is a great improvement from my school days, when you got three seconds at the drinking fountain after recess.  Kids need water to keep their bodies and brains healthy.

Here are a few tips for parents and teachers about bottled water at school

1.  It’s fine to buy bottles of water, but bringing your own container can be cheaper and more eco-friendly.  Many lunchboxes come with containers for drinks, and kids are starting to use the steel bottles, too.  Don’t reuse store-bought plastic bottles over and over.

2.  Send in fluoridated water if you can.  If your tap water at home is fluoridated, that’s what you should be giving your kids for school.  Then you’re helping them have healthy teeth in addition to healthy bodies and brains.  Just chill the water in the fridge overnight or use a bottle-sized cold pack.

3.  Many parents send kids to school with a frozen bottle of water.  DON’T!  The ice block is heavy, and has the capacity to be dangerous if it lands on someone’s foot.  Plus, the water never melts in time, and the bottles sweat all over everything.

4.  Send plain water.  Nothing with food coloring is allowed.  It’s not great when something like that spills at home, and it’s worse when it spills in the classroom.  It’s a huge mess for the custodians, and the carpet might even need shampooing.  Plus, the spill creates an extremely fun distracting disturbance that detracts from learning.

5.  Send in a clean sock to wrap around the water bottle.  This keeps it from sweating all over the desk.  Bonus points if you can find a really cute stock instead of just Dad’s old athletic sock  (but that will do).

6.  Make sure kids  know just how disgusting it is to drink from a water bottle that you brought in yesterday or the day before.  When I find half-empty store-bought water bottles in the classroom at the end of the day, I dump the water and recycle the bottles.  Otherwise, the kids will just keep drinking from them, and that will make them sick.  If your child forgets to bring home her reusable water bottle, give her another one for the next day.  It’s much safer that way.

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Posted in Classroom Management,Food,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 16, 2010


Little Critter Workbooks Get Results!

bookI have found a magical teaching tool: Spectrum Publishing’s Little Critter Reading.  It’s a workbook with the perfect format: an engaging story based on the Little Critter books by Mercer Mayer, followed by a worksheet covering comprehension, phonics, and study skills.  Students beg to use it and groan when we put it away.

In my experience, Little Critter Reading improves a reader’s skills by a whole grade level.

You can buy Little Critter Reading at two levels: grade 1 and grade 2.  Grade 2 is appropriate for students in second and third grade.  Grade 1 helps students make the remarkable transformation from reading three sentences on a page to reading several paragraphs—in the space of one workbook.  Grade 1 is great for English Language Learners.

I recommend Little Critter Reading books for the classroom and for the home.  At home, a parent or older sibling can tutor a struggling reader with Little Critter Reading books.

How to use Little Critter Reading:

1.  Read the story to your students.  Very important—think how much better they can read if they already know what it sounds like!
2.  Let the student(s) read aloud with you.  This way, you’re pulling the student along and helping her experience fluency.  For the whole class, choral read the passage.
3.  If time and patience allow, the student can read the story aloud without your help.
4.  Do the worksheet that goes with the story.  You might have to teach a mini lesson on topics such as root words, ABC order, verb tense, etc.  Kids quickly catch on and complete the lesson easily.
5.  Review the lesson.

One caveat: you are not supposed to photocopy Little Critter Reading workbooks.  I applied for a grant and bought a class set of the workbook.  I use it with my third graders at the beginning of the year.  We put a page protector over the worksheet page and write on the page protector with an Expo marker.  We erase with old socks.

Students who behave well get to draw on the page protector for two minutes!

Seriously, I can’t recommend Little Critter Reading highly enough.

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Posted in Academics,Fun With Literacy,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 14, 2010


Chores Build Confidence

Chores are not drudgery.  Chores build confidence.

I’m not kidding.  Real confidence comes from deep inside, from a sense that one has achieved before and can achieve again.  Real self-esteem comes from knowing that other people depend on you, that you matter.

Of course, to reap these benefits in your family chore routine, you really have to know what you’re doing.  First of all, frame chores as something everyone in the family does to contribute to the success of the family.  The family is a unit, and the unit cannot succeed unless everyone succeeds.  To make this happen, everyone needs to pull his or her own weight.  (Can you tell I’m a military brat?)

Your child should have a very basic chore of keeping his or her own room neat.  Beyond that, your child should be doing something to contribute to the family.  This can happen at a very young age.  My school’s reading specialist gave her toddler one chore: he opens the blinds every day.  Without him, the family would be in darkness.  He is important!

Chores build community.  This why I assign chores on the first day of school.  I talk to my class about the importance of chores, and how they make things nicer for everybody.  Then, we look at the list of chores that needed to happen and students volunteer for jobs.  Everyone has to have one job, and most kids clamor for more.  The really exciting part is when kids notice a need and invent a job.

I think that having chores from the get-go makes a difference in my classes.  We love chore time, and we all appreciate the little things each of us does to make our classroom great.

I hope that your family finds the same benefits.

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Posted in Classroom Management,Classroom setup,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Oct 7, 2010


Read Around the House* – Part Five: The Car

This is part five of an occasional series of tips for making reading a part of your child’s daily routine.  The more your child reads, the more he knows—and the more interesting his world becomes.

Okay, so I strayed from the around-the-house theme—many families spend a great deal of time in the car.  This can be a good time for children to read.

If your family has many kids, you probably spend time waiting in the parent pickup line at school, cooling your jets until baseball practice ends, and just generally hanging around in the car.  This is the ideal time for your kids to read.

Some kids get carsick if they read.  One solution is to place something over the window near the child, so she isn’t seeing movement in her peripheral vision.  On car trips, I used to put a pillow over the window, and those suction cup rollup shades can work, too.

Car reading material might be short: comic books, two-minute mysteries, magazines, books about animals that kids can browse.  If you have interesting reading material in the car, kids will read it.

*Does your child’s teacher assign a nightly requirement for reading?  Use these tips to incorporate reading seamlessly into your daily routine.  It can really help if your child is not the drop-everything-and-read type.

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Posted in Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Oct 4, 2010


Best Multiplication Songs EVER! Wins Awards

Great news!  My album, Best Multiplication Songs EVER! won two awards for 2010:  Dr. Toy’s Top 100 products and Dr. Toy’s Top 10 Educational Products.

Click here to learn more about the album.

Who is Dr. Toy?  Stevanne Auerbach, PhD, is one of the nation’s and world’s leading experts on play, toys, and children’s products.  Dr. Toy started her career as a teaching and reading specialist, helped establish the first childcare centers for federal employees, and founded the San Francisco International Toy Museum.

bookWith 30 years of specialized experience, Dr. Auerbach evaluates educationally oriented, developmental and skill building products from the best large and small companies in four annual awards programs.  Parents, teachers and toy buyers rely on Dr. Toy’s guidance in selecting products for children.

Dr. Toy’s motto is “Let’s play!”  Best Multiplication Songs EVER! perfectly fits Dr. Toy’s philosophy that play is educational, and education can be fun.

Thank you, Dr. Toy!

Posted in Academics,Math by Corey Green @ Oct 1, 2010