School Picture Day Tips for Teachers

Smile, it’s school picture day! Fun for kids, stressful for teachers. These tips will help you grin and bear it.

1) Sign up for picture time the instant the schedule is posted. Someone from your grade level should get up there, pronto! Sign up your whole team. Try to snag a time in the morning—before PE, recess, and lunch.

2) Keep a spare shirt on hand. One year, I bought a navy blue tee shirt at Wal-Mart because it was $3 and we were approaching picture day. Kids rocked that shirt for years! Navy blue looks good on everybody. Another good choice is red. (One year, the shirt looked so good on a student that I let him keep it. Interestingly enough, the parents never questioned this! Not to me, anyway.)

3) Pictures after lunch? Bring in a few aprons or giant tee shirts for lunch time. Murphy’s Law dictates the School Picture Day will also be Sloppy Joes day. Messes are expected, and kids WILL melt down. An apron or giant tee shirt worn as a smock can prevent heartache.

4) Keep a supply of cheap combs. The really cheap disposable kind. You can fix all sorts of flaws before picture time.

5) Bring a hand mirror to the picture zone. My students like being able to check their looks and make last-minute adjustments. The mirror helped calm jitters and made the kids feel loved. No one else ever thought to bring one.

6) Play stylist during picture time. I have caught and fixed all sorts of little things: hair sticking straight out, carefully curled hair with one piece gone askew at the last second, wardrobe malfunctions. Parents have called to thank me.

7) Have the kids SIT DOWN in a line after their picture is taken. The kids will behave much better if they are sitting down. It’s just harder to get in trouble.

Happy school picture day!

Comments Off on School Picture Day Tips for Teachers
Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Sep 28, 2012


Kids and Kindles Part 5: Brand-new Kindles

Amazon has released new Kindles: better technology, better prices. A National Board Certified Teacher offers tips for using Kindle in the classroom.

Of course, everyone is excited about the new Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G, and I’m sure it will be very fun. But there is a lot you can do with a basic Kindle in the classroom. (Or fancier ones, if your budget allows.) Even the cheapest Kindles now support children’s picture books, so Kindles have more uses in primary classrooms.

To celebrate the new Kindles, here are my blog posts about how to use them in the classroom.

Kids and Kindles Part 1: Kindle reads to kids
Help kids build fluency and comprehension skills by letting the Kindle model fluent reading. Many Kindle users say this feature has helped their kids who have learning disabilities.

Kids and Kindles Part 2: Kindle teaches speed reading
Using a Kindle helps kids train their eyes to move faster, and their brain to keep pace, so they can speed read. My blog entry explains how to teach this skill.

Kids and Kindles Part 3: the No-Budget Kindle
Learn how to use the free Kindle e-reader to give your students some of the benefits of Kindle.

Kids and Kindles Part 4: Building a Classroom Kindle Library
Five tips for building a classroom Kindle library on a budget.

Comments Off on Kids and Kindles Part 5: Brand-new Kindles
Posted in Fun With Literacy,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Sep 21, 2012


Mexican Independence Day: September 16

Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on September 16. Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla declared war late into the night of September 15, 1810. After ten years of civil war and the death of two rebel leaders, the Spanish government signed the Treaty of Cordoba and the Mexican Empire was formed.

Mexican Independence Day celebration begins at 11:00 pm on September 15th with the ringing of the bells in every city of Mexico. The celebration continues into the day of September 16.

Teach your students about Mexican Independence Day with these resources:

Information and Lesson Plans from National Endowment for the Humanities: this high-quality information will help you teach Mexican Independence Day at any grade level.

Online Comprehension passage and quiz: Project the passage onto the screen and read it as a class, then take the quiz together.

Second Grade Mexican Independence Day Unit from Denver Public Schools: This is a well-written unit with worksheets and activities appropriate for primary grades.

Mr. Donn’s Mexico collection: lots of PowerPoint presentations and lessons for you to use with your class.

Mexico Independence Day Coloring Pages: it’s not substantial or particularly educational, but this fluff can add a little fun to your lesson. It’s a good way to calm down the class at the end of the day after your fiesta. Mexican Independence Day: some basic information that will help you plan a lesson or party

Learn about the Grito de Dolores: Learn about Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s cry for independence.

¡Viva Mexico!

Comments Off on Mexican Independence Day: September 16
Posted in Academics,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Sep 16, 2012


Accelerated Reader Genre Challenge

Here is a fun way to encourage your students to select a wider variety of AR reading material.

The Accelerated Reader program makes it very easy to keep track of students’ reading. Student progress is measured by reading level, point value, and percent correct. Kids can read pretty much anything so long as they fit their material within those parameters.

I noticed that my students were staying well within their comfort zones and missing out on the array of genres available to them. I also noticed that students tended to read a lot more fiction than nonfiction. While fiction is fun, nonfiction is increasingly emphasized in standardized testing to reflect its importance in the real world.

I created the AR Genre Challenge. Over the course of a nine week grading period, students had to read from a selected list of genres, but they chose the book. Spaces were reserved for free choice.

I keep track of the Genre Challenge with a class list generated by our grading software. I tape the list to a piece of construction paper and decorate it a little for flair, then label the boxes with genres. Here are some suggestions:

Fiction Nonfiction
Science fiction
Historical fiction
Realistic fiction
Fairy tale
Myth and legend
Free choice
Vehicles (cars, trucks, planes, etc.)
Places (states, countries, regions)
Environments (jungle, desert, etc)
Ancient cultures
Free choice

You can measure progress by book or by point value. There are pros and cons to each system; you have to decide what is best for your class.

How to use AR student records to keep track of the challenge

I use the individual student record function to keep track of the AR Stamp Sheet. The record is great because you can customize the date range so you don’t have to wade through records you’ve already seen. I just keep a note by my computer of when I last checked records so I know where to start this time.

Print (or view) the report after students have left for the school day so you know that you are capturing all tests up to that day. Fill in the chart with the books you can identify by genre. Highlight the titles you can’t easily classify and ask the student about them the next day.

I highly recommend you use one whole-class chart to keep track of the challenge. When I first started this system, I used individual stamp sheets, and the admin took MUCH longer. Plus, it’s good for students to see others making progress.

At the end of the quarter, have a blowout party for students who completed the Genre Challenge.

Happy reading!

Comments Off on Accelerated Reader Genre Challenge
Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR) by Corey Green @ Sep 13, 2012


An Easy Way to Remember Little Tasks

In a classroom full of kids and commotion, it’s easy to forget small but essential tasks. Here is a quick way to get organized.

I learned this tip from a school secretary, who could always remember to pass on messages, look up the answers to questions, and tackle tasks small and large. Her secret? A steno book.

A steno (stenography) book is used to take shorthand. It’s a small notebook with spiral binding at the top and lined paper with a line running down the middle of the page. Click here to order them for a good price at Amazon.

The steno book is  the best place to keep a to-do-list because of the spiral binding and nice weight to the paper. I keep my steno book on my desk by the computer so it’s easy to stay on task and prioritize.

Use your steno book to record little things you need to do. Examples:

Call Josie’s mom about chaperoning the field trip

Fill out paperwork for the speech pathologist

Print worksheets for Friday’s science lesson

Gather materials for afternoon committee meeting

Organize construction paper drawer

Gather manipulatives for math lesson

…and so on. All those tiny tasks!

This system started working for me right away. I don’t know how I taught without it. Now I use this system both at home and at school.

SUPER TIP: The steno pad became management magic when I started having the kids write on it, too. Individual requests, like “please print a new permission slip for Bryce” are so easy to forget. If a student has a specific request, I ask them to write it on my list. Then I can continue teaching and the child can go back to learning, secure in the knowledge that I will honor his request. (Students are not allowed to write on my list without my permission, though.)

An unexpected benefit accrued when students realized that my steno pad list was so successful. Some students started their own to-d0 lists and excitedly told me how it helped them remember little things that used to cause problems. Other students would look at my list when they had unexpected free time, and sometimes they did some of the tasks for me.  Third graders love to organize books, shelves, papers — especially when they have  a friend helping, too.

The steno pad to-do list helps you prioritize. You can tackle items in order of importance, or according to how much time you have. If you have 4 minutes until you need to pick your students up from PE, you might be able to tackle a small item like printing worksheets off a website.

You don’t have to write as large as I did for an easy-to-read illustration, but don’t use every line and let the page get crowded with tasks. Every day or few days, reassess and start a new page. I often found that some items didn’t need to stay on the list because they turned out to be unimportant, or they were Overcome by Events. (Something changed and now I don’t have to do it.)

Write on one side of the paper and flip to the next page as you go through the book. Then, if you want to conserve paper, you can turn the book around and write on the back of every page, going through it again.

I hope the steno list helps you feel less stressed and more organized.

Comments Off on An Easy Way to Remember Little Tasks
Posted in Classroom Management,First Year Teachers,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Sep 7, 2012