Keep spare treats for kids with allergies

This is another one of those tips that will involve spending your money.  In a nutshell: keep spare treats for kids with allergies.  Common allergies are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, and gluten or wheat.

Keeping spare treats it is helpful when parents bring in birthday treats or refreshments for classroom parties.  Sometimes parents will arrange this with you in advance, sometimes they won’t.  Often, parents will ask about avoiding allergens for a treat they plan to bring—but if you have several students with varied allergies, a parent may find it very difficult to avoid all those troublesome ingredients.  In many cases, parents don’t realize how complicated this can be unless their own children have allergies.

Keeping alternate treats helps you avoid complications and disappointments.  Other teachers and the nurse sometimes ask me if the allergic child’s parents have sent an alternate treats.   I just take care of it myself so it doesn’t become another admin responsibility.  Plus, if you have treats always available, you can head off disappointments and even tears during what should be a moment of celebration.

Here are a few ideas for treats that avoid various allergens:  Skittles, Rice Krispie Treats, Little Debbie Cakes (those that avoid tree nuts or peanuts), lollipops, and hard candies.  You can check ingredients lists easily—the potential allergens are listed at the bottom of the nutrition information section.  I always stay on the safe side and don’t buy treats processed at a plant that works with peanuts or tree nuts for students who are allergic to those foods.  Often, I have a nice fresh piece of fruit available, but I can’t always guarantee that.   (It just depends what goodies are in my lunch that day!)

If I’m ever out of stock and a treat shows up that I know a child can’t eat, I just arrange for someone to cover my class while I take the child to the teachers’ lounge to pick an alternate treat out of a vending machine.

This is just another example of how being a teacher can become expensive.  However, I think you will be glad to have these spare treats on hand.  Kids with allergies have problems enough, and they will really appreciate when you go the extra mile for them.

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Posted in Classroom Management,Classroom setup,Food,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 27, 2011


Kids and Glasses Part Three: Special Cases

In third or fourth grades, many children begin to need eyeglasses.  It’s not unusual for a third of the class to be wearing glasses by the end of the school year.

If you think a student might need glasses, call the nurse to schedule a convenient time, then send the child to the nurse for a vision screening.

If the child fails the vision screening, the nurse will send a note home to the child’s parents indicating that the child should be taken to an eye doctor.  In many cases, often the very next day, the child will tell you she has an appointment at the eye doctor.  If this doesn’t happen, remind for a day or two, then wait a week to see if the child brings it up again.  If not, go back to the nurse.

Let the nurse remind parents.  If you get the feeling (or know for sure) that affordability is an issue, make sure to tell the nurse.  School nurses have a few resources for free eyeglasses, but quantities are limited.  You can tip the balance in your student’s favor by advocating and staying in contact with the nurse.  Remember not to promise anything to the student, and don’t tell the student about your efforts to secure free glasses.  You might not succeed.

A heartbreaking scenario is when a child has glasses that are clearly many years old and inadequate for the child’s current vision needs.  Sometimes the tip-off is that the glasses are too small for the child’s head. Send this child to the nurse and go through the vision screening procedure.  If the parents can’t or won’t get the child new glasses, work with the nurse and social worker.  Always, always involve the nurse as the primary case manager.

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Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 21, 2011


Kids and Glasses Part Two: Common Pitfalls for Students New to Wearing Glasses

Teasing and glasses envy: New glasses wearers worry about peer pressure and teasing, but in my experience, this rarely happens in elementary school.  Rather, I find that other students catch a bad case of glasses envy.  They borrow the glasses of the “lucky” nearsighted students and wear their dad’s old geek glasses to school.  They even buy glasses accessories in stores like Claire’s at the mall.

Destruction: Once kids have their glasses, they often destroy them the first week (or day) out.  Glasses tend to cause headaches until the wearer is used to them, so kids set their glasses down anywhere.  My family still talks about the first day I got glasses (in 3rd grade!) and for some reason I set my glasses on the floor.  My big brother accidentally stepped on them.

Glasses that go missing: Students lose glasses all the time.  Many students need glasses, but their eyes aren’t really bad yet, so they only use them for certain tasks.  This means the student is always setting the glasses down somewhere.  Consequently, glasses get left in the computer lab, lunchroom, gym, library, or school bus.  If a child is missing glasses, send the student and a buddy to check the lost and found and whatever special you had the day they went missing.  Then check the main office.  Before you officially declare the glasses MIA, offer the whole class a chance to find them.

“Forgetting” to wear glasses: Some kids just don’t take to glasses, and they start “forgetting” to bring them to school (or home).  Give it a shot and remind the child for a day or three, but I strongly recommend that you make no promises to the parents about reminding the child to wear his glasses.  You don’t want the onus of a stubborn child’s glasses-avoidance issues on you.

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Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 18, 2011


Kids and Glasses Part One: It Often Begins in Third or Fourth Grade

The beginning of the school year is a classic time for kids to have trouble with their eyesight.  In third or fourth grade, many students who previously didn’t wear glasses suddenly need them.

Symptoms include the obvious—squinting, asking to move closer to the board, and headaches.  These are usually apparent at the beginning of the school year.  Many kids’ eyes may have changed over the summer, but families didn’t notice because very few people need to see the whiteboard from their living room couch.

Talk to your school nurse and ask when it’s convenient to send a child down for a screening.  Make sure the screening is during class time, not a special class or, heaven forbid, recess.  No need to add missing fun to the child’s stressful experience of taking a vision test the teacher recommended. Watch students all year because new cases will crop up.

Finally, from the School of Hard Knocks, I offer this tip: not all kids will thank you for referring them to the school nurse for vision screening.  They’ll blame you for quite a while.  I think that you have a moral obligation to refer the child to the school nurse anyway.

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Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 13, 2011


Harness the Power of the Eagle Project

Eagle Scout is the highest rank a boy can achieve in the Boy Scouts of America.  To reach the goal of Eagle Scout, boys must advance through all the ranks of the entire scouting process and earn at least 21 merit badges in a variety of skills.  To top it off, scouts must complete an Eagle Project, a community service leadership project.

My older brother is an Eagle Scout.  His Eagle Scout Project: teaching students about different kinds of shelters and conducting a hands-on lesson so students could build them in their own  classroom (see photo).  I remember the accolades he received—his Court of Honor was a big deal.  Since we’re an Air Force family who moves all the time, my brother knew some very special Scoutmasters from far-flung locations.  My parents arranged for some of them to attend his Eagle Scout Court of Honor.  My brother requested a congressional candidate to attend—and he did!  Everyone knows that achieving Eagle Scout is a big deal.

I know a teacher who is very talented at harnessing the power of the Eagle Project.   Through Eagle Projects, our school created murals, built benches, installed a garden—you name it!  Of course, this teacher was always there as executive oversight.  (The Eagle Scout candidate did the actual leading.)

I haven’t been brave enough to sponsor an Eagle Scout project myself, so I don’t want to talk big.  I just want to alert you to the power of the Eagle Project and provide you with a few resources.

The Eagle Scout candidate tracks down the materials (often with donations from local businesses), organizes the work crews, plans everything and completes the project.  However, a dedicated staff member at the school has to be ready to help or find information any time the Eagle Scout candidate needs it.

To find a troop near you, enter your zip code at the Local Council Locator, or simply Google your town + Boy Scouts.  Even better would be to use your personal network to find Scouts already affiliated with your school or an organization (often a church) that many people at your school attend.  A really great source of Eagle Scout candidates is school alumni and older siblings of your students. gives comprehensive information on what an Eagle Scout Leadership Project is and isn’t.  The list might give you ideas for projects for your school.  I’m sure they would not mind if I list some of the ones that seemed particularly applicable to schools:

  1. Built a Playground
  2. Picnic Tables for Park
  3. Leadership Training Program: helped the school district organize and train the staff members for a week long retreat for the 6th graders.
  4. Made Bicycle Racks for Baseball Complex
  5. Flag Pole: the school’s flagpole was really old, so the eagle scout candidate got a company to donate the cement and pole for a new one. His boy scout troop helped put it in.
  6. Walking/Nature Trails at local schools including chips and shavings to walk on, leveling trail for ease of use, etc. Several days with various sized crews of 5-10.
  7. Built a volleyball court
  8. Moved the shelving, supplies, stock, and books from a stockroom in a 500 pupil elementary school to a new storage building.
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Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 10, 2011


School Garden

Our school acquired a garden through an Eagle project.  It was a wonderful contribution to our school.

Building the garden was one thing (the Eagle Scout candidate led that effort).

Planting the garden was another thing entirely.  I had extremely limited gardening experience and no idea how to begin.  I wasn’t sure what supplies we needed, how many plants, or even how much topsoil to buy.

Awesome parents to the rescue!  A parent whose family owned a nursery helped us plant the garden.

The garden was so incredibly exciting that it permeated our class culture.

My students and I knew the garden would make learning come alive, but that didn’t prepare us for the exciting reality.   Every aspect of the project was an adventure.  We got in the green thumb mood by watching John Denver sing “The Garden Song” with the Muppets.

We made academic preparations for their garden by studying the life cycle of a plant and learning about the vegetables they would grow.  We relished every step in creating and tending to the garden.  To third graders, pulling out weeds so we could lay the topsoil was thrilling.  Did you know an entire class of third graders can fit into one of those garden boxes and weed it, all at the same time?  That was a moment I’ll never forget.

Before we planted the garden, most of my students’ experience with vegetables was limited to tagging along at the grocery store and making “icky” faces when forced to eat those awful organic substances.  After planting our garden, my students were asking for more vegetables at home and closely monitoring the status of their garden.  Students were enchanted when our garden attracted dozens of bees happily buzzing to and fro, just like in storybooks.  The kids launched an aphid control campaign to capture ladybugs from our soccer field and transport them to the garden.

The garden has sparked a feeling of community among my students.  They manage their own garden club and have written dozens of just-for-fun reports about plants, vegetables and garden bugs.  My third graders consider themselves emissaries of the school garden and enthusiastically share their knowledge with younger students.  The excitement when we harvested for two separate salad parties was almost more than they could bear.

We created awesome class books to thank the Eagle Scout who created the garden for us, the family who helped us, and the nursery that donated plants and materials.  The kids worked harder on those books than any class book we ever created.  Their gratitude was just so immense.

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Posted in Food,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 7, 2011