What do we want our classroom community to look like? How do we want our classroom community to sound? These two questions begin our group discussion on sharing ideas, making decisions, and solving problems in our classroom. One of the earliest conversations we have focuses on good manners, appropriate voice levels, and classroom rules. This week, I am going to share a few of the books and activities I use to introduce our classroom behavior chart.
Manners! Not Monkey Business
Years ago, I came across this idea of Monkey Manners in an issue of Copycat Magazine and I still use it today. (Copycat Magazine is no longer published. Check with your school library for old issues.) I begin by reading the book Manners at School by Carrie Finn. This read-aloud is a great springboard for teaching and reviewing classroom manners such as lining up quietly, raising your hand, listening, sharing, and cleaning up. After reading the book, we interact with one another by pairing and sharing ideas for good manners in the classroom, lunchroom, hall, and on the playground. I listen and record the students’ ideas on chart paper. Each child chooses one of the manners to write on the front of a monkey cutout. We add these monkeys to a bulletin board display of Monkey Manners. It makes for a great visual reminder of the responsibility, respect, and kindness we expect in our classroom. Throughout the year, the simple phrase of “No Monkey Business” is all it takes for a quick reminder to use manners.
Voice Level Chart
The book Me First by Helen Lester features Pinkerton, a cute, pink, and pushy pig. Pinkerton is quick to call out “Me First”! He is the first down the slide, first through the cafeteria, and first on the bus. Wanting to be the first to care for the Sand Witch, Pinkerton learns first is not always best, which is the moral of the story. After reading, we talk about the use of active listening in the classroom and we create our classroom voice level chart. This voice level chart hangs in our classroom for reference during whole group, small group, and independent working time.
Rules Rap by Dr. Jean Feldman is a fun sing- and read-along book. I use this book to introduce the importance of following classroom rules. As we brainstorm possible classroom rules, I record the ideas on chart paper. I combine the students’ ideas into five rules for our room. We remember these five rules on one hand throughout the year. Each student writes and illustrates one of the rules to post in the classroom and to create a class rules book. You may want to try this free teaching activity sheet from Creative Teaching Press. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes and Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann are two additional books to read when discussing classroom rules and responsibilities.
These books and activities build the foundation for the daily use of our classroom behavior chart.
How Is Your Day Going? The Classroom Behavior Chart
The management system I have used successfully for years in my classroom is the color card behavior chart. This system is simple, visual, and with a few additional ideas allows me to emphasize the positive. Each student in our classroom has four colored cards in individual pockets on a wall chart. The four colors represent how well the student is working within the classroom for the day. Each day, the child brings home a daily folder with a monthly behavior calendar. This calendar reports the color earned for the day. Students are given time to record this color on their calendars at the end of each school day. Parents are asked to review and initial the calendar nightly. Parents are encouraged to praise their child for accomplishments.
All students begin each day with a green card. Green is earned for an excellent learning day. The card is turned from green, to yellow, to red, and to blue if additional reminders are needed to follow the classroom rules. Students receiving a green card and a star did not need additional reminders during the day. These students receive a star sticker to place on the day's behavior calendar. It’s amazing how motivating those star stickers are for the children.
Students are further encouraged and recognized to exert extra effort on a daily basis by first adding "good apple" reward cards and then "best in show" certificates to their pockets. These cards are rewarded for consistently going above and beyond star behavior and students earn a nice note to share with their families. I add many cards for good behavior and rarely need to turn a card for inappropriate behavior.
How do you establish a safe and welcoming classroom while teaching rules and setting expectations at the beginning of the school year?