Secure the perimeter!

I have found that kids have no problem calculating area and perimeter, provided they can both add and multiply.  The problem is remembering which is which.

In our class, we have a fun way of remembering the difference between the two concepts.  It’s loosely based on my background as a military brat, with a heavy influence from battle scenes in movies.

You know how in movies, the commander will tell his troops to secure the perimeter?  The soldiers race to secure the boundaries so no one can get in.  The classroom version: we spread out, each taking a section of the four walls in our classroom.  Then we remember that perimeter is the boundary of a two dimensional figure.

We “retreat to the main area” when it’s clear that our defenses have been breached.  We hit the decks in the wide-open middle of our classroom.  That way, we remember that the area is the space in the middle.

Vocabulary connection: the word “perimeter” comes from peri, meaning around and meter, meaning measure.  Therefore, perimeter means to measure the distance around the shape.  There are lots of other peri words, but they are mostly scientific.  Most kids should know the word periscope, a device that lets a submariner look around.

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Posted in Academics,Math by Corey Green @ May 27, 2011


Ask Random Third Grader

I like to make up silly game-show activity titles for mundane class activities.  “Ask Random Third Grader” is a fun way to conduct a review lesson.  You will need popsicle sticks (or some other random number generator) and a group of enthusiastic students.

In essence, Random Third Grader challenges the class to answer every question on the first try, and makes all students accountable because you never know who will be chosen next.

  1.  On the board, write three categories: Random Third Grader, Class, and Teacher.
  2. Ask the question.
  3. Pull a popsicle stick and call on a random student.
  4. If the student answers correctly, give Random Third Grader a point.  If not, ask for volunteers from the rest of the class.  If no one knows, answer the question yourself and give yourself a point.

We have a class jar system where we add for compliments received, moments that went well, etc.  For every 5 points Random Third Grader earns, we give ourselves one Add to the Jar.

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Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 25, 2011


Remembering Mr. Rogers

When I was a child, Fred Rogers was my best friend.  He opened his show with a simple song, so simple that I could sing along before I started going to school. I knew that he talked directly to me and I talked to him, too.

May 22 celebrates the anniversary of the premiere of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in 1967.  The last original Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood aired on PBS in 2001, making it the longest-running PBS program at the time.  (PBS began its broadcasts of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in 1968.)

Fred Rogers did a lot more:
>> He was the composer and lyricist of over 200 songs.
>> He wrote numerous books for children and for adults.
>> He won 4 Emmy Awards and the Lifetime Achievement Award.
>> He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
>> He advocated before the U.S. Senate for more government funding for children’s television rather than the Vietnam War.
>> He testified before the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of allowing home recording of his television show during the Sony V. Betamax litigation.

His last book, published in 2002 was The Mister Rogers Parenting Book.  One of his famous sweaters is on display in the Smithsonian.  Mr. Rogers was one of my most important role models, even at the age when I called him “Mr. Rog” because I couldn’t say his whole name. 

I salute you, Mr. Rog.

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Posted in Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ May 20, 2011


Fun with Whatever

This is a quick tip, but a good one.  One day, as a joke, I sarcastically used the term “Fun with Long Division” to describe the rather dry lesson we were about to do for the next hour.  Once I started, I couldn’t stop.  Now, my students and I refer to many lessons as “Fun with [whatever.]”  The more mundane the lesson, the more fun the title.  “Fun with Apostrophes” was a real winner.

The weird thing is that this really does make the lesson more fun.  There are several reasons:

  1.  We work a little harder to make the lesson live up to its ambitious yet ironic title.
  2. Seeing the word “fun” on the board tricks our subconscious minds into having just a little fun.
  3. Misery loves company, and if we all acknowledge that apostrophes aren’t the most exciting thing EVER! then we bond as we help each other make it through the lesson.
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Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 18, 2011


How to Ace Standardized Tests

It’s the time of year when standardized tests take center stage in schools.  My students (third grade) took a high-stakes standardized test; for most, it’s the first time in their young lives in the testing environment.  I wrote about this challenge last year:

How kids take standardized testsHow to make State Achievement Test week AWESOME (for teachers)

Dos and Don’ts for the State Writing Test

Links for parents looking for information on how to help their students:

Disney Family Website Article: What Every Parent Should Know About Standardized Testing  “Thirty years ago, American school children spent two or three days a year bubbling in answers on standardized tests. Today, children in some school districts spend as much as 18 days per 180-day school year on standardized testing.”

 Testing Our Schools: A Guide for Parents  “This guide will answer some of your questions and give you information about testing. Use the guide to help you understand more about school testing, define your questions and concerns, and help your child prepare for taking tests.”

There’s an entire section of my new book, Best Multiplication Workbook EVER!  that deals with standardized test taking strategies.  Most students take standardized tests for the first time in third grade, and third grade is when the curriculum emphasizes developing multiplication skills.  My workbook deconstructs word problems and strategies to identify the correct answer to multiple choice questions, skills that apply to far more than just getting multiplication problems right.

Posted in Academics,Classroom Management by Corey Green @ May 16, 2011


Fun with Symbolism

Part of the fun of blogging is that you get to meet other bloggers—and their students.  Mr. Reifman’s class in Santa Monica asked me if the boy on the cover of bookBest Multiplication Songs EVER! is supposed to look like an “x” for multiplication.  I was impressed with their question and told them more than they ever wanted to know about symbolism in my books and marketing messages.  (I went to business school to learn how to be a civilian—I grew up as an Air Force brat with no idea how the other half lived.)

So here it is…Fun with Symbolism.

Dear Mr. Reifman’s class,

You are very clever! There are indeed hidden symbols and layers of meaning on the cover for Best Multiplication Songs EVER!

The jumping boy on the cover is indeed intended to make you think of the “X” for multiplication. The jumping-for-joy-look indicates that the album has a lot of energy. Also notice that the red letters and a boy flying against the blue sky evoke Superman images, suggesting that you can become a multiplication superhero if you listen to the album.

Managing Stan (aka Zapped!) has hidden symbols, too. You’ll notice that fire or the color red appear when the kids are up to no good and are being untrue to themselves. That’s when things tend to get zapped, too. I used trees (and leaves) to symbolize honesty and being true to yourself. For example, Kyle wears a gilded leaf necklace that belonged to his mother. Brian, his best friend, is the one who keys in on its importance. The scenes at the Secret Tree show the kids becoming friends, not just classmates. Even the plaque on the bench under the tree has a tree theme: In Memory of Eldon Bower. “Bower” is a tree-related word meaning a leafy shelter.

In my newest book, Brainstorm, I wrote some cool metaphors. See, Brian is very clever, and his ideas come to him out of the blue, like brainstorms. (Some brainstorms are good; others lead to  funny problems.) Whenever Brian has a brainstorm, I create a metaphor and compare it to a real storm. For example, “Snowflakes swirled in Brian’s mind as a wintry brainstorm grew into a blizzard.” In some cases, the type of storm has something to do with the idea, like when Brian’s brainstorm starts raining cats and dogs as he thinks of an idea related to Barkley, weirdest dog ever.

Until my last year of high school, I could find symbols in stories, but honestly thought that the authors didn’t really intend them. I thought my teachers just made me search for them as some sort of scavenger hunt activity combined with an assignment to write a two page essay about the importance of the color red on page 184. Education is about helping each generation build on the learning of others; I can save you some time and say that yes, authors absolutely really do put symbols in their books.

Try putting symbols in your own stories! Just think of the symbol you want to use and what it will mean, and slip it in here and there. Not too much, or it will get tacky. For example, Brainstorm is 180 pages long, and I only used 9 brainstorms.

Corey Green

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Posted in Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ May 13, 2011


The Children’s Choice Book Award: Author of the Year

bookRick Riordan won the Author of the Year Award for The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 1)

The Children’s Choice Book Awards lets young readers voice their opinions by voting for the books they like.  Of course, the hope behind this program is that kids will make their own reading lists and develop a love of reading.  Kids cast more than 500,000 votes online this year.

My students love Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series.  The students who can read at that level are very proud of their accomplishments, and their success motivates others. 

My class formed a Percy Jackson fan club that celebrated all things about Greek mythology.  They were especially democratic by not demanding that club members had to have read the Percy Jackson books to join the club.  The result was a lot of fun and sharing on their own time—things that make a teacher’s heart soar.

Thank you, Rick Riordan, for your contributions to KidLit!

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Posted in Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ May 11, 2011


New release—Brainstorm: Buckley School Books #2

bookThis spring marks the release of the second installment in the Buckley School Books—Brainstorm.  It follows the misadventures of Brian and features mystery, suspense, misadventure, and the world’s weirdest dog.  I hope you enjoy it!

What good is being so smart…
…when your brainstorms backfire?

They don’t call him Brian the Brain for nothing: Brian is very smart. Sometimes Brian is too smart for his own good and his brainstorms backfire.

Brian has a brainstorm to solve two problems: his horrible nickname (Barfy) and all the homework help questions his classmates send him every night. Brian creates AskBarfy, a homework help website and the only time kids can call him Barfy.

Brainstorm backfire: Classmates get jealous when AskBarfy gets famous.

Brainstorm: Brian distracts the kids with a mystery that emails show criminals are planning to steal art from the Buckley Museum.

Brainstorm backfire: the robbery is real!

Can the kids stop the robbers?

Children’s middle-grade fiction.
Audience: Ages 9-12.

Zapped! – Buckley School Books #1 is also available online.

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Posted in Book Reviews by Corey Green @ May 9, 2011


Guilt Points

In my class, we have students divided into table groups.  The groups can earn points for good behavior, academic achievement—lots of things.

My best invention ever was Guilt Points.  I use Guilt Points to alleviate my guilt over an injustice or indignity my students have suffered.  Guilt Points give compensation to the wronged party and let us all move on.


* I said the wrong name.  The two students I confused each earn a Guilt Point.  (This is the most common reason for earning a Guilt Point in my classroom.)
* I mixed up the identical twins—again!
* You raised your hand, and I just didn’t see you.
* Thanks to your contrition, I feel bad about making you refocus.

Guilt Points give students an appeals process, which is often necessary in the fast-and-furious world of classroom justice.  I love it when students ask for guilt points for another student: it shows that kids look out for each other.  It is also interesting when students tell each other that a consequence suffered was deserved and that there is no merit for their Guilt Point plea.

I think Guilt Points say something about our classroom system of justice.  Guilt Points tell students that I have their well-being at heart, and that I always try to be fair.

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Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 2, 2011