Classroom Management Wrap-Up
Well week three for me is officially over! We survived Hurricane Ike here in Austin without a drop of rain and enjoyed an early release day on Friday! The powers that be wanted to make sure all the children were home safe before the traffic on our city streets became overcrowded and they needed to use some schools as shelters for families coming from Houston and surrounding areas. I managed to work in my classroom for several hours after the early dismissal. My wonderful principal, Valerie Galbraith, came marching down the hallway demanding that I and a few other diehards “Go home!” Ah, if only every Friday would be a half day, we would get so much done!
Our area superintendents are in the process of leveling classes and moving teachers across the district. Unfortunately, my team is one of the grade levels with lower numbers than usual. We have been waiting on pins and needles to hear if they are going to force a teacher to move either to another grade level or even possibly to another school or just leave us alone. Of course if that happens, my small class will suddenly become a class of 20 and I will be back to square one with classroom management. That fact, I can deal with, losing a colleague that I work so well with and have grown so close to, will be devastating. The stress of not knowing has been almost unbearable and the fact that teachers have absolutely no say in this process is regrettable.
So keep your fingers crossed for me that I won’t lose my partner in crime, and thanks for letting me share my worries. Because of the possible sudden changes my class might have to endure, I was taking time this past Friday to consider my classroom management; how it was going, what needed to be emphasized and what I might need to change if I suddenly had several new students come Monday morning.
I realized I had a few more quick ideas to offer you as I wrap-up our discussion on classroom management before I move on to sharing all of the fun and exciting learning activities that happen in my little part of the universe.
Whole Class Consequence: Occasionally, your entire class is out of whack and you are not able to give individual sticks. This is when I take out my clipboard that has a paper attached to it showing numbers from one to twenty five. I very calmly hold up the clipboard and begin marking off numbers, beginning at the number one, until the class is silent. And then I begin teaching again in a very soft, controlled voice.
The numbers represent how many minutes we have for recess. Each number I mark with an X is minutes I take from recess time. When this happens, I keep my students in the room at the beginning of recess. I ask them to think about why we have to take this time from recess and what we could do differently to solve the problem. I have them put their heads on their desk and consider solutions. After the time out, we take a few minutes to discuss what the students thought about and to discuss some solutions to our problem. As a class, we agree to a solution and then we head outside to play. I usually only have to pull out that clipboard a few times at the beginning of the year and the students never want to see it again. This week, my students were having difficulty maintaining listening ears during homework folder time at the end of the day. By Thursday, I just had to start to walk over to the clipboard and they all quieted down.
Make The Call: Now that I am coming into week four with my class, I will start to be much more strict about following through on student consequences. One of my consequences is to have the student call the parent to explain to them about their poor behavior choices for that day. I have to credit this idea to a former colleague, Janice Lowry, who told me that she has hardy ever had to use that tactic in all her many years of teaching because it was so effective. She was right. The few times I have had to do it in my own classroom, the students were so stunned that I would just hand them the phone and make them explain to their parent what he or she was doing that was disrupting the entire class, there was never a follow up phone call. And the parents appreciated knowing what was going on and were able to be an immediate help in solving the problem.
Time Out a Recess: I do not just have my students sit in time out at recess. That is unproductive and unhealthy. Luckily, we have a track on our school playground that I can have them walk. When a student does have a 5 or 10 minute, time out, I have them come to me first. We discuss why they received their sad sticks, and I ask them to think, while they walk, about what is causing the problem and what different and better choices they can make next time the problem arises. After their time out, they come back to me and we discuss the solutions they thought of and I praise them for their good ideas, we agree upon a solution together and promise to support them as they try to make better choices.
Questions About Stickers:
Do I give extra stickers to Ss who have gotten a sad stick? Yes. A student can make a poor choice and receive a sad stick, but he or she can show outstanding behavior or complete quality work after that and if you feel a sticker is deserved, then give it. Remember this system is about rewarding the positive and praising the good efforts. Mistakes will be made, but it should not be the main focus of your attention.
What if a student reaches 20 stickers before other students? This will happen all of the time. Remember, it is an individual reward, not a whole class reward. When a student reaches “the end”, as I call it, we give him or her a big “Yeeeehaw!” and I take their incentive chart down and choose a new one to hang up so they can start earning stickers immediately to work their way up to 20 stickers again.
Why do you use 20 stickers? I know not all incentive charts have 20 squares to fill in, I just thought 20 seemed like a reasonable number to achieve in a decent amount of time. Not to short, not to long. Plus, when I don’t use incentive charts, the students can easily practice counting their stickers in rows of five.
“Good Citizen” Bulletin Board: I prefer this title than to “Good Behavior” or something similar to that. After all, one of the things we are teaching our students is how to be a good citizen now and as an adult. It also gives me an excellent lead in to teaching students about American government. Having this connection to their classroom helps them to understand the bigger picture.
Incentive Charts: I have bought incentive charts from an educational catalog or teacher store. I have also used store bought die-cut colored notepads or paper shapes because sometimes I can find those cheaper or they have more pages to use. I have also made my own die-cut shapes using our school die-cut machines. And, I have cut out cool shapes myself from construction paper. I keep a box of these incentive charts by the Good Citizen Board, and I usually ask the students input on what chart they would like next. For example, Joey was the first to fill up his Texas shape this past Monday and the class chose the cowboy boot to be next. We have a western/cowboy/cowgirl theme in our room this year, so the boot was a big hit!
Sad Sticks: A sad stick is just a small craft stick that I have drawn a sad face on. One year, a student asked me if they could get happy sticks instead of stickers. He was very concerned that the sad sticks were so sad and lonely looking. When I explained that the little pocket with his name couldn’t hold 20 happy sticks, we compromised and added a few huge sized, happy-face, craft sticks in the holding container to look over the little sad sticks and cheer them up.
Nice Notes: My students love to get “nice notes” and I love giving them! I have a clipboard with a class list attached and some kind of cute teacher notepad or decorative post-it note pad. At the end of each day, during homework folders, I chose one or two students to receive a nice note. I place a check by there name so I can keep track of who has already received a nice note. I want to be sure that everyone has received a nice note before I start all over again! These notes can be as simple as “Emery has been such a good friend by teaching everyone how to tie their shoe.” Or “Nathan is working so hard on improving his handwriting, I am so proud of his efforts.” They take only a minute to write, and make students and parents feel so happy and proud.
Red Notes: One of my classroom management plan consequences is for students to receive a “red note”. This note lists as many rules as I could think of (talking while the teacher is talking, keeping hands to yourself etc.) so I can just check off the infraction, add a short comment if need be and send the note home for parents to sign. This saves me time in filling out information and lets the parents clearly see what areas their children need to work on and helps parents to support the classroom discipline plan. When the red note is returned, I file it to use at parent conference, IMPACT meetings or to create an individual student behavior plan if need be.
Treasure Box: For the longest time, my “treasure box” used to be a drawer in my file cabinet! I finally found a nice sized wooden chest that I now use. Wrapping paper and or stickers can brighten up any cardboard box for you to use! Over the years I have filled my treasure box with my son’s unwanted toys (McDonald items, Hot Wheel cars and the like), and then I moved on to my friends children’s unwanted trinkets as they grew up. Garage sales can be a great place to find cheap, small items if that is your thing. If you tell them you are a teacher and it is for your classroom, they practically give it to you! I also add books to the treasure box; my classroom books I don’t use anymore, library discards and more.
Of course there is Oriental Trading Co., and Hobby Lobby has a section of little trinkets (microscopes, musical instruments etc), 6 for $1, in their party section. Target also has a great little $1 section with many of the items having several to a set so you can break them apart. I have also asked my student’s parents to pick stuff up for donations to the treasure box, and I gave them all of the same ideas as I am giving you above. Of course you can make “no cost student incentives”; coupons for lunch with the teacher, no homework pass, drop one assignment pass, extra computer time etc. The students love these, too!
“It is better to build children than to repair adults.”
Quote from the wall of fellow colleague Monica Clark our instructional specialist at Metz.