Back to School: ask parents to write a letter about their child

backpackandlunchbagConsider asking parents to write you a letter about their child.  A personal letter from the people who know your student best can inform your teaching for the entire school year.

Many letters will be straightforward: basic info about likes and dislikes, favorite subjects, etc.  However, some parents will be glad of the opportunity to share special concerns.  You might learn about family circumstances, health issues,  or previous experiences with school that affect how the student learns and behaves.

Be judicious about whether you request a letter from families.  At some schools, parents would welcome the chance to communicate in writing.  At others, parents may feel like you are giving them a writing assessment.  Another possible issue is a language barrier–but you never know.  You might find that some parents are happy to write you a letter in their native language.  Chances are that someone in the district can translate for you–or you can get a rough idea with a Google translation.

Back to school night is a good time to request the letter, but it’s not the only opportunity.  Your school might have an Open House a few weeks into the school year.  By that time, the rush is past and everyone, including you, has more time to devote to the assignment.

A clear complement to the letter-from-a-parent is the letter-from-a-student.  An open-ended letter about the student makes a good writing assessment and informative piece for your files.

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Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Aug 15, 2016


Branding your Classroom

When you brand your classroom, everything becomes more fun.  Branding builds community because it makes your class feel more like a club.

My last name is Green.  When I taught third grade, I branded my classroom G3 and created a logo with an interlocking G and 3.  On the first day of school, I taught the kids how to do a class huddle and congratulate ourselves.  (I say “Go, us!” and the kids reply “G3!” in their deepest and most macho voices.) We also created a logo that we proudly displayed on our door.

The picture at right shows the G3 version of the Roman testudo (tortoise) formation.  This was our class’s entry into the Social Studies parade.  Our curriculum included Greek and Roman history, so a testudo formation was right up our alley.  The G3 posterboard shields look nice, don’t they?

The G3 brand belonged to everyone in the class.  Students proudly decorated folders, notebooks and even backpacks.  Our PTSO created signing shirts for end-of-year autographs, and the kids all wanted G3 on their shirt.

I knew a teacher whose classroom was in the basement, Room B-6.  She renamed her classroom “The  BOG” as wordplay on B-o6, then she used frogs as a theme for everything related to her class.

Another teacher chose ladybugs for a theme.  She called her students “Lovebugs,” as in “Lovebug, could you have made a better choice than hitting Tommy?” Everything sounds sweet if you add “lovebug.”

I highly recommend that you create a brand for your classroom.  It can be a play on your name or grade, the school name, or a theme that you can use to decorate the classroom.  Make it unique so that it only applies to your class.  The “insider” feeling will be well worth the effort.

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Posted in Classroom Management,First Year Teachers by Corey Green @ May 9, 2016


Class Antics: Best Back to School Advice EVER!

A National Board Certified Teacher shares tips, tricks and time-tested advice to help you get ready for back to school.

This Best EVER! collection is a must for first year teachers, but veteran teachers will enjoy it, too. I sincerely hope that these tips ease your worries as you face back-to-school stresses.

How to Set Up Your Classroom

Part One: Facing an Empty Room: this will help you get started on that terrifying first day you see your new classroom.

Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards: there’s more to it than you think, and this post will help you slap something respectable up so you can get back to work on more important things.

Part Three: Decorate the Walls: whether you have supplies or have to beg, borrow or steal (just kidding!), this post will help you cover those institutional cinderblock walls.

Part Four: Basic Management Systems: from managing your pencil supply to organizing work turn-in, this post will help you get the bare-bones systems in place.

Meet the Teacher Night/Open House

How to Organize Supplies from Meet the Teacher Night: if you can only read one post, make it this one! Learn how to save HOURS and HOURS by setting up your classroom so families can organize the back-to-school supplies.

Meet the Teacher Night: A Guide for Families: learn how to get the most out of back to school night.

Have kids sort the community school supplies: a fun time-sponge (soaks up time) activity that helps you organize the classroom and build community! A great way to deal with those Meet the Teacher Night supplies.

The First Day of School

A Sample First Day of School Letter Home: feel free to use the whole thing if you like! This sample letter will save you time so you can get back to setting up your classroom and planning a fun first day.

How to plan for the first day of school: the first day of school is a day like no other. Learn how to plan well so that the rest of your year goes smoothly.

The New Teacher’s Complete Sourcebook: this Scholastic Professional Book is very, very helpful to first-year teachers. You will especially like the minute-by-minute schedule for the first day of school. There is a unique schedule for each grade, K-4. I was incredibly glad to have this book!

Give kids a snack on the first day of school: this tip helps you break the ice, practice birthday treat protocol and ingratiate yourself with your students!

Don’t forget to TEACH on the first day of school: here is some good advice on how to inject some academics into the first day of school. Students, parents and administrators will appreciate your effort!

Throw Down a Challenge the First Week of School: coordinating nicely with Don’t Forget to TEACH on the First Day of School, this post tells you how to give your students a motivating challenge that builds academic skills, confidence and community.

A typical elementary school day schedule: this is really helpful for first year teachers. Get a sense of how a typical day is scheduled. Also helpful for parents who want a sense of what their child does at school.

Greeting Visitors Procedure: teach your students this charming greeting that also functions as a “principal’s here” alarm bell. Practicing this on the first day of school is super fun and can soak up half an hour, easy!

Set up class jobs right away! Years of experience tells me this is the BEST way to do classroom jobs. It’s really easy for you, and setting up the jobs on the first day gets kids into the swing of things. This activity soaks up half an hour or more!

First Week of School: Learn the Names Challenge: are you worried about learning all your students’ names by the end of the first week? Well, if you use this tip, the kids REALLY won’t care whether you know their names or not! They’ll be rooting for you to make a few mistakes!

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Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Classroom setup by Corey Green @ Aug 24, 2012


How to set up a classroom / Classroom arrangements Part 4

Part Four: Basic Management Systems

They don’t prepare you for this in college: the moment you see the bare-bones, institutional box that you are expected to transform into an inviting classroom…in two or three days.  It’s a daunting task for veteran and new teachers alike, and it has to be redone every year.

Through blood, sweat and tears, you have created a decent learning environment out of a previously forbidding and forlorn empty cinderblock box.

Now it’s time to set up a few classroom management systems.

A Pencil System

Decide on a good place for your pencil sharpener. Decide on a system for dealing with classroom pencils. I recommend the two-cup system: dull and sharp. New teachers, dealing with pencils is actually pretty complicated, so here are several posts to help you out!

Pencils, Part One: Managing Your Pencil Supply
Pencils, Part Two: Some Advice About Pencil Sharpening
Pencils, Part Three: The Pencil Drive

Turn In Work System

If you can afford it, buy Literature Organizers (their proper name!) at a teaching store or office supply store. Use pieces of index card to number the boxes 1-30 or so. On or before the first day of school, assign numbers to your students. They can turn everything in to these numbered boxes.

You will really, really appreciate having this system in place for receiving all the back-to-school forms.

If you can’t afford literature organizers, there is still hope. One idea is to tape down plain old manila file folders to the countertop in a long line. The student work slides into their numbered folder.

Another idea is to use existing cubbies or whatever your school provided for backpacks. On the first day, at least, you might rather receive paperwork in these cubbies and have kids hang their backpacks on their chairs. Trust me, you will like having all the back-to-school forms alphabetized!

Or you can just have a few paper trays out, like one for each subject. Then at least student work is organized by subject. You can enter these grades in the gradebook haphazardly, arrange papers in number order before you enter grades, or if you teach older grades, ask a student to put the papers in number order for you.

Lunch Count/Attendance System

A lot of schools have 2-4 choices for lunch each day, plus sack lunch from home. Many teachers set up a magnet system with numbered magnets for each student. Each morning, the kids put their magnet under their lunch choice. Whoever’s left either forgot to move their magnet or is absent.

Set this system up in a corner of your whiteboard, or you can use the side of a metal desk or filing cabinet. Here is an example of a lunch count system with magnets.

Organize your Bookshelves

My favorite way to organize bookshelves is with clear plastic shoe box bins. I sort the books by reading level, but earlier in my career I just sorted them by genre. Kids will keep the books very nicely in these shoe box bins. If you just put the books on the shelf, you will have a mess before long. Of course, it will look okay for Open House, so you might just want to set the books out and buy some bins next week!

VERY IMPORTANT: DO NOT LABEL YOUR BINS WITH MARKER! WRITE ON A NOTE CARD AND TAPE IT INSIDE THE BIN. You will repurpose your bins so many times; don’t tie yourself down with permanent marker labels!

Organize School Supplies

I organize school supplies in plastic shoe box bins. My classroom comes with open shelving, which I covered with plastic blinds from Lowe’s, about $15-20. This keeps the classroom looking serene.

Try to avoid organizing with cardboard boxes of any type. They look tacky and smell funny after a while, particularly if your school is humid.

Extra Credit: Set up for the influx of supplies that students will bring on Meet the Teacher Night. You REALLY, REALLY want to make time for this! Read my blog post on how to do it.

Part One: facing an empty room
Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards
Part Three: Decorate the Walls
Part Four: Basic Management Systems (this post)

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Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Classroom setup by Corey Green @ Aug 17, 2012


How to set up a classroom / Classroom arrangements Part 3

Part Three: Decorate the Walls

They don’t prepare you for this in college: the moment you see the bare-bones, institutional box that you are expected to transform into an inviting classroom…in two or three days.  It’s a daunting task for veteran and new teachers alike, and it has to be redone every year.

Once you have arranged the furniture and covered your bulletin boards, put a little time into decorating the walls of your classroom. You will need some posters or wall decorations.

There are many sources:

Shop for educational and motivational posters you find at teaching stores, office supply stores, and DOLLAR STORES, which are often a lot nearer to you at any given time than a teaching store.

Ask veteran teachers in your school if they have extras to give or lend you. Most teachers have a lot and are willing to share!

Required posters, like for curriculum programs, character education programs, whatever the school gives you and insists you display.

I prefer relaxing and beautiful artwork to school posters. I have assembled cool artwork from around my house, DOLLAR STORES, cut-up calendars, discount stores like Ross and TJ Maxx, and poster sales. You might also find that your parents or relatives have canvasses or framed prints that could look good in your classroom.

Ideas for if you have no posters:

A quick homemade poster of class rules. Principals like to see this display. Don’t make your rules too complicated! It’s just a poster; it’s not magic and it won’t inspire kids to behave like little angels. Just write a few be-safe-and-respectful type rules and get on with it.

If you can’t get your hands on decent posters before school starts, fill the walls with grids of construction paper ready to display student work.

Using black marker on construction paper, write BIG and use several pieces of paper to illustrate basic educational concepts. Six traits of writing, vowel sounds, mathematical operations, whatever. Just keep these really bold and graphic.

Use pieces of construction paper or butcher paper to create blank graphic organizers or thinking maps. Put clothespins on each piece of paper so you can clip things to the map during the year. Here is a simple example.

You can hot glue clothespins to the wall, then clip posters or construction paper to them. You can put student work out as soon as the kids arrive. Click here for a good example.

How to hang your pictures and posters:

If you are lucky, your classroom’s walls are easy to work with. You can hang things up with pushpins and staples.

More likely, you have a classroom lined with cinder block walls. It is really hard to hang things on them, but not impossible. Here are some ways to affix your posters and decorations:

Hot glue holds the posters really well, but will come off the wall when you are ready. With hot glue you have to work quickly, so an extension cord can let you dot the glue as you hang. A quick Internet survey showed that hot glue is the hands-down favorite for hanging things on cinderblock walls. Get a glue gun Wal-Mart, Target, or a crafts store.

Adhesive products: I like the 3-M mounting strips and sticky stuff. Get it at Wal-Mart or similar stores.

Adhesive products with Velcro: Get these at Wal-Mart or similar stores. You get a sheet of squares with velcro. Arrange them the way you want on your poster and put the Velcro that’s gonig on the wall right on the Velcro on your poster. (You do not want to mess with trying to line things up!) This will hold a while, but not as long as adhesive products without Velcro or hot glue.

Framed pictures are nice because you can drill into the wall, set up a hook, and hang them. (Confession: I don’t know how to do this; my dad always did it for me. But here are some online directions.)

Part One: facing an empty room
Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards
Part Three: Decorate the Walls (this post)
Part Four: Basic Management Systems

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Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Classroom setup by Corey Green @ Aug 10, 2012


How to set up a classroom / Classroom arrangements Part 2

Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards

They don’t prepare you for this in college: the moment you see the bare-bones, institutional box that you are expected to transform into an inviting classroom…in two or three days.  It’s a daunting task for veteran and new teachers alike, and it has to be redone every year.

Most classrooms have at least one bulletin board in the room and one in the hallway.  Set up your bulletin boards before you worry about other wall decorations.  Your boards don’t need displays on them for Open House, but it helps if they are at least outfitted with butcher paper and a bulletin board border.

Get the butcher paper from the school’s supply and use it to cover your bulletin boards.  You can skip this step if the bulletin board looks good without butcher paper.  Don’t discount the nice clean effect of plain white bulletin board paper.  It doesn’t fade during the year and it looks good with a construction paper grid for displaying student work.  (see below.)

You will want to use bulletin board border.  This can be found at teaching stores, office supply stores, and sometimes at dollar stores.  If you are in a hurry, just ask a veteran teacher for bulletin board border.  Most of them have extensive collections housed in special bulletin board border storage boxes.

You can get by without bulletin board border if you do a really nice clean job of setting up the butcher paper.  In my experience, first year teachers have not yet acquired this skill.  Cover your mistakes with border.

You can put displays on the bulletin boards, but this might not be a priority if you are facing an empty room with nothing on the walls.  Many teachers put the students’ names on interesting shapes for the bulletin board in the hall, but this has to be replaced early in the year.

I like to create a grid of construction paper for displaying student work.  I arrange construction paper in a pleasing pattern on the bulletin board.  Then, during the year, I attach student work with a thumbtack.  The bulletin board can stay up all year while the display changes.  This grid is really easy to do and probably your best bet as a beginner.

You can have students create bulletin board displays on the first day or week of school.  Have the kids decorate a 4 x 6 index card, a piece of paper, a shape like a paper plate, whatever.  You can have the kids just do pictures, or you can add a writing sample or getting-to-know you aspect.  This work can become the first thing featured on your bulletin board.

Later, when you are not so overwhelmed, cover the bulletin board with fabric rather than butcher paper.  Thisbackground can last a school year or more.  I recommend dollar-a-yard fabric; don’t go much more expensive than that.  I usually find fabric at Wal-Mart, but crafts stores also have good selections.  A bulletin board fabric should be either solid color or with a really small print.  It’s nice if your solid-color fabric can have some texture to it, but it’s not necessary.  It is very important that you IRON the bulletin board fabric before you staple it to the board.  This makes all the difference in the world!  No amount of wrinkle spray or stretching will give you the nice clean look of ironing.

First year teachers: just cover the bulletin boards with butcher paper, cover mistakes with a border and move on.  You have a lot to do!

Part One: facing an empty room
Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards (this post)
Part Three: Decorate the Walls
Part Four: Basic Management Systems

P.S. In the photos above, I covered a bulletin board with fabric, used monkey decorations from a bulletin board kit, and stapled construction paper in a grid.  Then, as my class achieved learning goals, I had them all sign a paper relating to the goal and we used a push pin to display it on the bulletin board.

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Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Classroom setup by Corey Green @ Aug 3, 2012


How to set up a classroom / Classroom arrangements Part 1

Part One: Facing an Empty Room

They don’t prepare you for this in college: the moment you see the bare-bones, institutional box that you are expected to transform into an inviting classroom…in two or three days.

Oh, and the district is “supporting” you with new-teacher induction programs during those same days, so you’ll be attending lots of meetings.

Setting up the classroom will have to be done during evenings and on the weekend—if you have a weekend between the time you get hired and the first day of school.  Here are some tips for first year teachers and transferred teachers.

Step One: Assess the situation.  Request the room be cleaned if it isn’t already.  Request furniture you may need.  For example, do you have enough student desks?  Chairs? Do you have a table for reading groups?  Enough bookshelves?  A teacher desk?

Are the student desks all the same height, or are they a mish-mash?  You can ask for school custodial staff to adjust the desks for you.  They should be able to help.  If necessary, you can adjust them all yourself—or, to get started, put like-sized desks together in tables.

Step Two: Clear the room.  Often, the teacher before you has left weird little things, claiming they might be “useful.”  Chances are, you just don’t need this excess stuff.  I’m talking about those student worksheet packets that MIGHT be useful in November, if you can even remember where you put them, knick knacks, 30 year old posters, strange office desk accessories.

Just clear that junk out.  Put it in the hallway, in trash cans if you can, but it’s not necessary.  The custodians will clear it away.

Step Three: Arrange the furniture and desks.  Map this out on the whiteboard if you can, and use a measuring tape on the room and furniture so you get a rough idea of if your plan will work.  You don’t want to shove desks around, then find out there wasn’t room for your design.

Nowadays, it is more common to make tables than to arrange the desks in rows.  I find that tables of four to six desks are good, and so are long tables of desks down each side of the room.  Whatever arrangement you decide, test it for livability.  Do student chairs back into each other?  Is a student sitting right in the flow of traffic to cubbies or the bookshelf?

Visit for ideas on setting up desks.  Don’t get too fancy your first year.  Take a look at the picture here—my all-time favorite desk arrangement that I used for years.  It’s a variation on a nice horseshoe shape, but the horseshoe is made from tables of four.

Your teacher desk DOES NOT need prominent placement.  You won’t be able to work at your desk during the school day because you will be too busy with students.  Arrange the important things, like the reading group table and bookshelves, and put the desk in as unobtrusive a spot as you can.  Up against the wall is often a good spot.  That way, more of the classroom is available for the kids.

Procuring furniture, clearing the room and setting up desks could take you a full day…or two.  Enlist helpers, if you can.  Regularly assess your progress, and adjust if need be.  Your goal must be to have the classroom ready for students and you must be ready to teach your students.  Keep that in mind and don’t be tempted to stray into projects that don’t require immediate attention.

Part One: facing an empty room (this post)
Part Two: Cover the Bulletin Boards
Part Three: Decorate the Walls
Part Four: Basic Management Systems

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Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Classroom setup by Corey Green @ Jul 27, 2012


Best Multiplication Products Win Tillywig Awards

I’m thrilled to announce that my math products, Best Multiplication Workbook EVER!  and Best Multiplication Songs EVER! are Spring 2012 Tillywig Brain Child Award Winners (Books and Audio Categories).

“Everything you need to help kids master multiplication can be found within these [workbook] pages! Loaded with examples, hints, tips, and playfully designed worksheets, this workbook is strongly geared to how kids think and learn… If you’re looking for a systematic, comprehensive, highly-organized curriculum that makes learning (and teaching) multiplication fun and easy, you’ve just found it! “

“Kids often struggle with their multiplication tables, but it doesn’t have to be that way… This [CD] is also a wonderful tool to use along with the Best Multiplication Workbook EVER! … An engaging, fun, spirited approach to learning something every one of us needs to know!”

Best Multiplication Workbook EVER!Click here to learn more about the workbook, the CD and the FREE software you can download for addition and times tables practice.

About Tillywig: Tillywig’s mission is to provide retail buyers, news media, parents, and consumers with product information and reviews of superior children’s products available in today’s marketplace.

Evaluation criteria and process: a Tillywig award winner is one determined by the Tillywig testing team to have high entertainment and/or educational value. During the evaluation process, products are used by a number of testers in an observed focus group format. In the final evaluation of any product, comments from observers are integrated with feedback from testers. Testers and observers come from all walks of life and a broad range of ages. When assessing these values, Tillywig focuses on evaluating many factors, including:

Ease of First Use
Clear, easy-to-understand instructions and product design are key factors in creating a positive initial experience.

Replay Value
It was fun the first time out, but will it be equally or even more enjoyable over a period of weeks, months…years?

Does it look and feel well-made? Is it something retailers would be proud to have on their shelves, a parent would be proud to give as a gift? Is it, from all appearances, built to last?

Social Interaction/Fun Factor
Products that effectively promote a high level of face-to-face playful interaction receive a high rating from us. If participants laughed out loud, so much the better!

Does it inspire creativity during use/play? Does this product actively fuel the imagination?

Thought Processes/Motor Skills
Does it encourage new ways of thinking or promote physical development?

Weighting of Criteria
If the product appears to be an educational product, then factors relating to learning and development are more heavily weighed.

Thank you, Tillywig!

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Posted in Academics,Math by Corey Green @ Jun 29, 2012


Fashion Tips for Teachers (Do’s and Don’ts)

The students have to look at you all day long, five days a week, for ten months. Give them something nice to look at! The kids will appreciate the effort; parents and colleagues will notice your polished look.

Here are my Dos and Don’ts, aimed at female teachers because that is what I know.  (I will start paying more attention to male fashion and develop a list for the guys.)


DO Wear lipstick. You can get by with less face makeup if your lips are bright. Lipstick gives any look instant polish and brightens your complexion. Tinted gloss can look good, but make sure it gives color to your face. The clear Bonne Bell look is for 13-year-olds.

DON’T Skip makeup. No matter how good your skin is, you need to wear a little makeup to look polished. The bare minimum: even out your skin tone with foundation, tinted moisturizer or mineral makeup. Then add blush and mascara. Don’t forget the lipstick or tinted gloss.

BEWARE of colored eye shadows. They look good on some people, but neutrals are always your friend. Remember that the point of eye shadow is to contour your eyes and give them more definition. This is best accomplished with neutrals.


DO find a flattering hairstyle and rock it. It might be a cute cut or a fun updo.

DON’T wear an unflattering hairdo for Crazy Hair Day. Find a crazy style that actually looks awesome.

DON’T wear a hairstyle the kids would wear. This goes for juvenile-looking braids (sophisticated ones are okay), childish looking barrettes or placement of barrettes, and punk ’dos best left to London punks.


DO wear more dresses. They give you a pulled-together polish and can be more cost-effective than separates. I hit the Ross Dress Sale every year and snap up washable dresses in my size.

DON’T wear sack dresses, the really baggy and frumpy kind that make everyone look bad. Whatever your shape, clothes that fit will flatter.

DO wear vivid colors. They brighten your face and kids love them.

DO make sure your clothes fit. They don’t have to be fitted, but they should fit.

DO balance your proportions: if the top is loose, the pants should be fitted and vice versa.

DO wear jeans, but with a cute top or fun blazer-style jacket. Look professional. Iron your jeans if you can—it doesn’t take long and adds a definite polish to the look.

DO wear dark-wash jeans. They always look more professional.

DO wear button-down tops with a collar. Make sure they fit well. Especially avoid a too-tight top that gapes at the bust. The kids WILL notice.

DO dress for theme days (Hawaiian, backwards, etc.) but keep it tasteful.

DON’T wear anything to school that you would wear to work in the yard. Grubby khakis and rumpled tee shirts are a bad look. So are big sweatshirts and jeans.

DON’T wear leggings—in most cases. The exception is if you have a really cute tunic or dress that covers your butt. Then it’s a do! (Check your district’s dress code first.)

DON’T wear logo tee shirts, especially the ones from educational organizations. The logos are often dorky, and the shape is almost always boxy and unflattering.

DON’T wear boxy tee shirts—the square shaped kind kids buy as souvenirs. Buy shirts with a feminine cut.

DON’T wear school tee shirts unless it is Friday or a field trip. And don’t wear them every Friday–it’s too predictable.

DON’T wear anything the kids might wear. This goes for clothing styles that only look good on those without curves and almost ANYTHING with butterflies or rainbows.

DON’T dress frumpy. If you have the sneaking suspicion your clothes or hairdo are frumpy, your subconscious is trying to tell you something.

DON’T dress like you did in high school. This goes for overly body-conscious clothing AND the jeans-and-a-hoodie jock look. Both are inappropriate for work.

DON’T wear khakis or button-downs unless you iron them. The rumpled look is bad for professionals.

DON’T wear a low-cut top that flashes major cleavage every time you lean over. Or, DO wear it, but with a camisole underneath.

DON’T wear Capri pants with sneakers, unless they are REALLY slim Keds.

DON’T wear something you’d be embarrassed to be seen in outside of school. That’s a sign you are just not dressed well.


DO wear shoes that are comfortable and stylish. It’s okay for the shoes to be more on the comfortable side so long as your clothes are pretty. Everyone understands that teachers are on their feet all day.

DON’T wear sneakers that look dirty. Have a nice pair on hand for days that require sneakers. And DON’T wear sneakers all the time, unless you are a PE teacher.

DON’T wear flip-flops or any shoes that look like they belong at the beach. Sandals that look polished are a DO!

Jewelry & Accessories

DO wear jewelry, real or costume. It completes your look. Plus, kids are attracted to shiny objects.

DON’T wear jewelry the kids wear—no rainbows, bumblebees, cutesy animals, or punk studded cuffs for you.

DON’T wear teacher jewelry. Apple pins rarely look good. Those craftsy pins with little rulers and stuff glued to them are a terrible look.  If you have a collection from the kids, put some fabric and batting in a frame and stick the pins on it for a classroom decoration.

DO keep your nails nice and neat, particularly if you use a document camera.  With a document camera, a close-up of your hands is on display all day.  A manicure is nice; so are cool rings.  At a minimum, use lotion for good skin.

Rules of Thumb

DO have a go-to outfit, hairstyle, and two-minute makeup routine for hectic mornings.

DON’T feel like you have to spend a lot of money. Shop discount stores like Ross, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx. Hit Stein-Mart for fancier pieces, especially for fun little jackets and blazers. Steam or iron your bargain finds and the perceived price of your look doubles.


DON’T wear “teacher sweaters.” EVER. Avoid anything with pictures of schoolhouses, pencils, rulers, and other teacher paraphernalia.

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Posted in First Year Teachers,What it's like to be a teacher by Corey Green @ Jun 12, 2012


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


The No-Name Form

No-Name papers are a real pain.  Different teachers have different ways of dealing with them.

Some teachers automatically hand No-Name papers back, often in the form of a “No-Name Box” that students are supposed to check if their work wasn’t graded.  I recommend against this because savvy but lazy students like to fish through the No-Name papers and turn them in as their own work.  Plus, often the teacher actually does know who created the paper, so the exercise just draws out the processing time for the paper and creates extra work for the teacher.

I created the No-Name Form as my answer to No-Names.  I can almost always identify No-Name papers because my student number* system is so good.  My kids turn in their work to numbered boxes, so I always have everything in order, nice and easy to input in the grade book.   If I have a No-Name between papers 18 and 20, I can bet it belongs to student 19.  I just write the student’s name on the paper, stick a No-Name Form on his desk, and make a note so I remember to collect the No-Name form.

You can print my No-Name form, which has students practice writing their name and number correctly.  Just assign these for every No-Name paper.  I find that this fixes mild cases of the No Names and might eventually reform No-Name kids.

The big surprise was that students found the No-Name paper to be fun!  It’s supposed to be a reminder, but the kids just love it.  They do No-Name forms just for fun.  Sometimes they create cool zigzag patterns on the form by indenting their name a little more on each successive line.

Another surprise was that some kids offer to help a student who is way behind on his No-Name Forms.  If the kids are smart enough and generous enough to think of this, I allow it to happen (with my knowledge and consent.)  I think it’s community building.  My parents taught me that in the Air Force, this type of helping-with-the-punishment was one of the highest levels of teamwork.  I always tell the No-Name offender to make sure and do something nice for the helper.

If you decide to use the No-Name form, print it on scratch paper if you can.  No need to use good paper on such a mundane task!

*I assign student numbers the first day of school and teach my class the “Name and Number Song.”

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Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,FREE Worksheets by Corey Green @ Sep 29, 2011


Nicknames in the Classroom

Nicknames can be a great way to build community. Students love to have a special name just for them, and they feel valued when classmates use their nickname.

Some teachers assign nicknames on the first day of school. It’s a good way to break the ice. I’ve never tried that because I’m not sure I can come up with so many nicknames on the fly.

You might like to coin nicknames as the year goes on. Always ask the student’s permission before using a nickname you thought of yourself.

After you’ve given a few nicknames, tell the kids to let you know if they create a cool nickname for themselves. If you deem the nickname appropriate, encourage the class to make an effort to use it. Using the nickname is like a gift from one student to another. Students are so proud when their nickname catches on. Often it follows them past the end of the school year.

Ideas for creating nicknames:

Talents: Winners of contests or class experts might develop nicknames based on that, such as Miss Multiplication.

Actual names: You might be able to use alliteration to create a catchy nickname based on a student’s first or last name. An example is DJ Jazzy Jeff (the Fresh Prince’s pal.) If you’re lucky, you might find a cool rhyme, such as Racin’ Jason.

Last names that sound cool: Some kids just have awesome last names. They might like to be called by that. It sounds really jock. Jocular, too! New word alert—jockular: of or pertaining to a friendly jock.

Awesome prefixes: Sometimes you can add an awesome word to the student’s name to create a cool nickname. Two famous examples Magic Johnson and Joltin’ Joe. Athletic kids might like a strong name with Action, Power, Super, or some other similar “prefix.”

Initials: Some people’s initials sound awesome. This is a classic source of nicknames.

Cut-up names:This is a variation on Fun with Initials. Think A-Rod and JLo.

Objects: You might create a nickname based on something the student likes, or just a cute word that fits the student. Cupcake is an adorable nickname. Boots is fun and classic.

Famous association: Your student might have a name, talent or hobby that can tie into a song, movie or band name. Talented dancers might like Dancing Queen or Tiny Dancer.

Heroes: if a student has a hero, maybe that hero’s name or a variation of it should be their nickname. A girl who loves to sing might like to be called Beyoncé. A student might like to be called after his favorite team or mascot.

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Posted in Classroom Management,First Year Teachers by Corey Green @ Sep 26, 2011


Name Table Groups for Educational Concepts

Many teachers seat students in table groups.  These groups can be Teams, Tribes, Learning Communities, or whatever your school calls them.

Some educators advocate getting student buy-in by having students name their groups.  There are a few reasons I’m not nuts about this approach:

  1. It takes forever.
  2. It’s not educational.
  3. Kids come up with silly names that aren’t catchy or are just plain dumb.
  4. Kids argue.  A lot.  How exactly was this teambuilding, again?
  5. The kids who don’t get their way hate the new team name.

Instead, I name the teams myself using educational themes.   I might pick a bunch of math vocabulary words, Greek gods, key words for our Social Studies unit, parts of speech (Go, Adverbs!)…you get the idea.

Some of my coolest team names came about because I like to have seven tables in my classroom—it just fits well, and there are so many things that come in sevens.

  1. Seven continents
  2. Seven Wonders of the World (various lists)
  3. Seven notes (Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do—we did this when we performed the song in our school talent show)
  4. Seven colors—Roy G. Biv. (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet)
  5. The Seven Dwarfs come to mind, but parents might complain about their child being in the Dopey group.  Even though the kids love it and everyone wishes they were Dopey.  Seriously—one year I organized math teams and asked the kids if they’d like to be the Seven Dwarfs.  The rule was that the Dopey kids had to be volunteers.  Everyone wanted to be Dopey and we had to draw straws.  No one complained, but it could have happened!
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Posted in Classroom Management,First Year Teachers by Corey Green @ Sep 23, 2011


Greeting Visitors Procedure

When I was a new teacher, I looked so young that I blended in with the kids.  People would stop by my room and suffer a moment of panic thinking there was no teacher present.

I solved this problem with the Visitor Procedure.  I teach it to my students on the first day of school.

When a visitor enters the room, the first person who notices says “Class, we have a visitor!”

The whole class says in unison, “Hi!  We’re glad you’re here!”

Then the students are supposed to be dead silent while the visitor says his piece.

When the visitor leaves, someone (usually me) says, “Class, our visitor is leaving!”

The whole class says in unison, “Bye!  We’re glad you came!”

We practice this by sending volunteers into the hall to enter and exit as visitors.  It takes about five tries of each phrase to really get it down, but the exercise is well worth the effort.

Our visitor procedure is one of the hallmarks of my class.  It’s a really fun way to build community and greet people at the same time.

Plus, it’s a nice little alert system so you know someone has come into your classroom.  You’ll see!

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Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management by Corey Green @ Sep 20, 2011