Help yourself to some freebies

Classroom Management Series #4

Our last week, first I hav to apologize for the long wait but we are mock testing in preparation for state testing which is about a month away.

However this is the perfect timing for this blog post because this is when the behaviors are at their worst right before Spring Break.

So what do you do when you have built relationships, setup a great management system with expectations and there are scholars who just will not follow expectations and your procedures?

Well I use a consequence and reward system. I know in the previous post I said not to use rewards but I was referring more to how you use the reward system. There is a way to effectively use a consequence reward system that can effectively change behaviors.

You have to identify a reward and a reward schedule that will lead to an initial and sustained increase in the wanted behavior. You want the reward to tell your scholars that they have successfully exhibited the desired behavior. You want to steer away from using a reward as a bribe or coercion (“You do that, you get this”). Make sure that you understand the motivation behind the behavior because sometimes the student may act out to get a certain consequence. Like being removed from class to avoid math or reading. Here is an example of rewards that I use with my class.

There are behavior plans and strategies for single children who need a more specific plan but for classroom strategies there needs to be a plan to ensure that everyone is learning.

You want to replace a negative behavior with positive behaviors. Determine whether the consequences that follow a behavior are the right ones. If a student wants to get attention and blurts out you don’t want to give them the attention they desire, but redirect the behavior quietly without giving them the attention they desire.

Here are some things that have worked for me but of course you may have to tweak it to fit your scholars and behaviors.

Always start with the positive narrations (what we call it at my school), make it a point to recognize the scholars who are meet8ng your expectations. I always say “ thank you James for following my directions immediately”, “good job Sarah for being in line correctly”, you would be surprised how many start fixing their behavior to hear their name called. I also let them know that I am looking for 100% and what I have (i.e. 80%, 70%, etc.) to let them know that we as a class have not met the expectation. And the scholars then start helping each other “Tommy get in slant we’re waiting on you”. And the big thing we don’t want to miss is ALWAYS BEEN SEEN LOOKING! If you are not checking to ensure what you asked for is happening it will not happen. Make sure if you are asking for notebooks to be taken out that you are looking to see that everyone has their notebook out and do not continue without your expectations being met.

Side note: administration pushes for instruction to continue no matter what but in my experience if you have a student not doing what you asked (even one) it will be in your observation….helpful hint.

Secondly, is to be proactive have a plan for your classroom of scholars who you know have trouble with certain environments. If you have scholars who you know struggle with learning in whole group you may have a spot for them in class that they can sit away from the group but you definitely want to tell them they are not in trouble. But, you want to help them focus on learning without the distractions. My students love sitting at my table it makes them feel special, however my table is also my desk so I have to move things around or specifically tell them that the things on the table are off limits (which usually works if they know I will move them).

Third, private discussions (I will admit I still struggle with this) it can be difficult to try to not stop teaching and ask a scholar to meet your expectations without leaving whatever your teaching spot is, but that usually ends up with you asking the scholar to correct the behavior in front of the class, and then the scholar reacting in a more attention getting behavior yelling out “what did I do?” or “I didn’t do anything!”. It makes the situation worse. Have a private chat with the scholar by having them tell you what expectation they are not meeting or if they can’t tell you, remind them of your expectations and then ask if that is what they were doing. I always give one chance to meet my expectations. If the behavior continues and you have reminded them once, now they are making the choice to not meet expectations. Then I give three options of how to correct their behavior, 1) they can move away from the group with the option to return once I’ve seen a change, 2) they can get a negative dojo with an instant message to their parents , 3) or I can choose for them. You need to make sure to give options you are okay with. I am lucky to have very active parents that respond quickly to any dojo message so those are good options for me, but you would have to come up with acceptable options for you. I also use time off recess or depending on what we are doing working in another classroom with a teacher of my choice, usually a lower grade who will only let them work, a behavior notice home, sign a behavior book with a message home. These options have worked for me throughout different years. It just depends on the students I have that year.

Lastly, what to do with recurring discipline issues? These are the scholars who have figured out how to push your buttons and seem to set out to do just that. With these scholars I made it a point to not only build relationships with them but also their parents. You will find most of the time that they know their children and aware of how they behave. It’s very rare that what they do at school is not done at home. Make special efforts to say hello, give hugs, acknowledge them because most of the time that is what they want. As well as make special efforts to send positive feedback to the parents because they may be used to only hearing negative things about their child. Tell them you want to work together and you are available. Unfortunately, by upper elementary it may be extremely difficult for a scholar to change their behavior so I have used behavior plans with a rewards system for them. Our team will get together and talk about consistent behaviors that we want the scholar to work on with a tracking system and acceptable rewards. Now because you have the relationships they are more eager to work with you.

I hope you find this series helpful please reach out and let me know if it was helpful, anything I can do to clarify, or what I can add to this.

Some of things I use are in my TPT store if you want to checkout click here are any of the pictures.

Take the hassle out of keeping up with missing assignments!

Missing assignments are always a hassle to deal with as a teacher. No matter what systems you have in place it seems unavoidable. Especially when scholars are failing due to lack of work being turned in. So what do you do?

First I use a grade sheet that I code to let me know who is missing assignments, it helps me know who has turned it in late or incomplete. I can also designate what is homework, class work, or an assessment. I keep this in a binder. I know that everything is digital nowadays but it helps when I can just grab and note while grading and I can tell immediately who hasn’t turned it in without getting on the computer.

I also utilize a missing assignment sheet I usually send this home if the scholars are missing more than two assignments and it has to be signed by a parent. I list which assignments are missing and that they have 3 days to turn in or it’s a zero. (Helpful hint) I always make copies before I send it home just in case it’s not returned so I can have documentation, as well I send messages through Class Dojo to let parents know that it’s coming. This has been extremely helpful for managing and organizing this process for me and my class. It is also helpful when we have to show documentation of parent contact. (especially when returned with a signature)

You can get this missing assignment system by clicking on this link or the picture below.

Helping scholars be accountable is also a key component to keeping organized with assignments, I have a missing assignments log book that scholars have to fill out to explain why they did not complete the assignment to turn in. Each scholar gets their own log that they fill out. This is especially helpful during parent conferences (documentation). As well as a strike out form that they fill out and return. It gives them a chance to get the work turned in before parents are contacted.

This has been a game changer for me and extremely helpful for documentation purposes when scholars are failing. The failure notice definitely gets there attention. Unfortunately when scholars get into the upper grades parents hope to give a little more independence to their children however communication starts to break down because scholars will not let them know that they are struggling with keeping up with work.

Gets parent attention

This is how I handle missing assignments how do you, I would love to hear other ideas.

Classroom Management Series Week 3

How to teach expectations and set boundaries?

Gentle in what you do, firm in how you do it. —Buck Brannaman

In classroom management and life in general people work and strive better when they have set boundaries and expectations. Even me as a teacher always ask my admin. What are your expectations for me when you come into my classroom or what are you looking for? This helps me to prepare to be observed and ensure I’m not blindsided by something unexpected.

This is the same for children. Setting boundaries is not some rigid line that cannot be crossed but it is being clear about behaviors that are reasonable, safe, and tolerable. Of course, there are some that are going to challenge the boundaries but your job as the teacher is to be prepared to deal with the challenges that come with ensuring good classroom management.

Any expected behavior must be taught.

First, just as we teach academic expectations, we must teach behavioral expectations we must be proactive. Having clear and predictable routines and rules is a way to increase your students positive behavior. Students misbehavior may be due to unclear classroom expectations. Routines and rules should be explicitly taught and practiced. Before a task is begun teachers should remind students about the expectations.

Second, you should provide positive reinforcement when students meet your expectations. Positive reinforcement provides your students feedback about their behavior. When students feel more confident about their abilities, they are more likely to continue to exhibit positive behavior. Praise should always be sincerely delivered and systematic. Teachers should also praise four times as often as they provide corrective feedback.

Third, teachers need a systematic plan to address misbehavior once it occurs. Students are still going to misbehave, when this occurs teachers should immediately redirect students using positive and direct language. It is best practice for teachers to tell a student what to do, for example; get in a line, use kind words with your friends, versus telling them what not to do (don’t run, don’t tease). Another common mistake is the teacher is forming their redirection into a question like “Amy can you return of your seat”? This is known as an indirect command. Some students do not understand this, they think it’s actually a question and have a choice. We want to be direct and clear about our expectations.

When students do not follow the rules, there needs to be clear and consistent consequences. A reward and consequences approach is not effective. Many teachers use this, it is used to control students behavior, and consequences are typically uniform across children and situations. Students do know what to expect but it usually doesn’t correct the behavior. I find that students feel they have certain amount of chances before the big consequence or feel they need to be rewarded for meeting an expectation. However, when issued properly consequences provide students with the opportunities to learn and practice more appropriate ways of behaving. Consequences should be reasonable and relate to the misbehavior. It also should be delivered calmly and privately. That means you’re physically close to the student and can make eye contact when communicating. You should be specific and immediate and use a calm and respectful tone of voice. I explain often to my scholars fair doesn’t mean equal. The consequence will fit the crime and person.

How to teach expected behaviors through classroom rules and procedures.

Just like academically you must plan on how to teach expected behaviors. I treat it as another lesson plan. You need to ask yourself when planning:

*What should it look like or sound like? *Is it a procedure that I need to fix or a new procedure? *Do I need to change the environment for this to occur? *When and how am I going to introduce this to students? When will students practice? *How will students know if they are doing a good job? It takes that level of detail to plan out how to fix a procedure that isn’t going well or introduce new procedures? (think about beginning of school)

Lastly, follow through: remind, reinforce, and redirect

It isn’t enough to verbalize a policy, procedure, or routine, it isn’t enough to state reminders, it isn’t enough to catch it when you can. Following through like everything else needs to be routinized, intentional, and on your schedule. If you know your not going to follow through on something, offer it as a choice and not a directive. We follow through by intervening at key moments with specific focused language. When we are correcting behavior, it should sound dramatically different than when we compliment children. Words carry greater meaning through volume, intonation and pacing. Remember that redirecting language is stated in the positive and tells children what to do, not what not to do. And it isn’t a question.

As students have learned to self manage, use of authority to influence will have become much more subtle, you will need less direction and your boundaries will have evolved. You’ll be using a gradual release of responsibility the students will work at trying to meet your expectations. Remember the teacher begins with a high-level of control and gradually releases the control to students with explicit instructions and practice.

This doesn’t mean to completely let go but you’re putting things in place to manage your classroom with less frustration. Ensure that you are using brief sentences for clarity a firm tone, control volume, proximity, and eye contact and gestures all these things work together to set boundaries and have your scholars meet behavior expectations.

Don’t set your sights on a complete overhaul overnight, set small goals do a timeline, practice give yourself space and some time to feel comfortable with what you’re doing and plan it out. Good luck and let me know how it goes?

Classroom Management Series Week 2

Classroom management is the key to any successful school year. There are so many different techniques and strategies that can be found online, on Pinterest, or YouTube that it seems no one should have a rambunctious class, however each teacher has to do what works best for them and figure out what works with their class. I’ve found that some things that worked one year may have to be tweaked or changed the next year because of the scholars I have, each class and year is different. I have been working with brand new teachers (student teachers and mentors) and I always advise them to not overlook the small procedures (i.e. pencils, turning in work, etc.). These are the procedures easily missed because we focus on lining up, hallway procedures, attention chants, etc. But we can’t miss these because they will quickly turn into a bigger issue.

Your goal is to make sure that students always know what to do if something happens. Here are some procedures you want to make sure you have in place:

  • What do they do if their pencil breaks while you are teaching? (although I have a signal I will still have students who try to sit and not work)
  • What do they do if they need tissue?
  • How do they pass in or pass out assignments
  • What is the procedure for entering the classroom?
  • Where do they put supplies?
  • How do they know what to get out for class?
  • How do they ask to go to the restroom? Can they go anytime example while you’re teaching?

These are just a few to think about when preparing for the school year and throughout the year adjusting as needed, but depending on your school you may have some that you didn’t know you would have to need a procedure for until school started. One school that I taught I had to have a restroom monitor because the bathroom was so far away and there were some students I couldn’t trust to go alone. Last year, I could have a pencil person but this year the students can’t handle it so I just give away pencils.

Also, be consistent! Nothing derails classroom management like inconsistencies. You wouldn’t believe it but scholars feel inconsistency is like lying so it is imperative to stay consistent. Even your scholars who are your biggest behavior issues look for your consistency and routine that gives them comfort, and act worse when things change. If you feel like something isn’t working include your scholars in on the changes, you would be surprised at how helpful they are (sometimes they are tougher than you are) it also helps with keeping them accountable because they were apart of the decision process. And, they start holding each other accountable, I love that part because sometimes you may not have to say much. They will remind each other of the expectations.

In my class I use hand signals to help with staying consistent and keep my class running smoothly. You can grab my classroom management packet here it has hand signals, a voice level poster, and other tools to make classroom management easy. Click here or photo below.

Sometimes there may be a little trial and error but having a plan for the small procedures and staying consistent is a great start to having great classroom management.

I would love to hear what are some the small procedures you use in your classroom?

Classroom Management Series Week 1

If you ask any seasoned teacher about the best classroom management technique most probably all will say to start with building relationships. And I wholeheartedly agree but if you are a new teacher you probably wonder why and how to build relationships with students.

First the why, although they are kids there is so much they deal with that we are unaware of and you (as the teacher) may be the only stable thing in their life. And if a student doesn’t feel that you care then they will not care about learning. I have a student who when we returned from break that told me that he felt I didn’t like him. After talking with him I realized there were deeper things happening. He felt like I didn’t like him because I was the only teacher that communicated with his mom about his behavior and that I didn’t give enough positive feedback. He did admit that he could improve his behavior but he wanted me to also recognize when he does well. And I know that if he didn’t feel he could talk to me that he would have continued acting out and feeling that I didn’t like him. I always tell my team that scholars are not going to behave well for people they don’t like and relationships are the key.

However, do not fall into these pitfalls. Building relationships doesn’t mean becoming more of a friend than an authority figure. I’ve seen teachers sink because they joke and play around so much that when it’s time to get serious they can’t control the class. That’s when you see the talking back, defiance, and disrespect, or teacher yelling and blowing up and the kids don’t understand why they are in trouble.

Another pitfall is being insincere. We think kids can’t tell but they really can. Be authentic in your interactions with your scholars the relationships will come naturally.

So what are some ways to build authentic relationships with your scholars.

  • Morning meetings are a great way to learn about your scholars and make sure you participate so they can get to know you.
  • Morning greetings I’ve seen some fun and creative ways to greet your scholars in the morning. At the beginning of school I gave the option of hug fist bump or handshake now I only give hugs because that’s what they want. Not only my home room but several from my other sections come by each morning for their hug and tell me stories. Best part of my day!
  • Our first week of school we ate lunch with our kiddos and got to know them.
  • Recess is also a good time to build relationships
  • Incorporating class discussions into your teaching

Building relationships is so important to classroom management that it’s quite impossible to teach without the relationships. So all my fellow teachers what are some things that you do to build relationships?

Five Things You Must Do When Coming Back From Break!

After not thinking about school for two weeks it can be difficult to jump back into teaching. But it can be even harder for the students with all night gaming, no set rule, hanging out with family members, or just doing nothing (as some of my kiddos put it). So there are some things that must be done before getting back into the old grind.

Here are five things that I felt I must do in order to ensure we can use our learning time efficiently. Some of these were to fix issues from last semester, however I think it could be beneficial to anyone.

Five things you must do when coming back from break

1. Review and reteach expectations

2. Practice speaking and listening activities

3. Talk about goals for the rest of the year

4. Share about your break

5. Review some things learned from last semester (concepts and/or behaviors)

You can make these activities fun and interesting for your kiddos by making games, centers, or challenges.

What are some fun activities you do when you return from break?

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