Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Classroom Management

I had a really great professor at Longwood University (Farmville, VA) that focused on the area of Classroom Management.  He had great anecdotes to accompany each lesson.  I'll never forget the one about the "Claw of Death."  The important lesson was- don't ever leave a student in charge of the class.  I'll let you use your imagination to figure out how the "Claw of Death" came into play there...

My college professor stressed the importance of having a plan in place and documenting everything.  As a result, I have always had a classroom management system in place and my students and their parents have always read and signed a behavior management contract.

Last year, a colleague was telling me about the great success she had with the clip chart system she had in place in her classroom.  I have always used some form of the green, yellow, red "stoplight" system for classroom management.  (I've never tried to go without a management system.)  My colleague told me that she really liked the emphasis on seeking out and rewarding positive behavior, rather than solely looking for negative behavior.  Because of that, she used a 6 color chart system.  Students began in the middle of the chart each day, and could climb up and down depending on student choices throughout the day.

Classroom Management Clip System from previous school year
Since that conversation, I've spoken with other teachers across the state about their classroom management systems.  My sister, a first grade teacher, uses a clip chart system similar to that of my colleague.

I began searching Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers for ready made resources for this year's classroom management system.  I knew I needed to find the following: a chart to use in the classroom, a monthly communication calendar to document student daily behaviors, and a classroom management contract describing the clip chart system and the classroom rules.

This year's clip chart system from Creative Lesson Cafe
First things first, I started looking for a clip chart system.  I found several variations of the clip chart system- some started with purple for outstanding behavior at the top of the spectrum with red for parent contact at the bottom level, like Lesson Plan Diva's behavior chart, while others followed the traditional spectrum from red for outstanding behavior to pink for parent contact, like what I found on TeachersPayTeachers via the Creative Lesson Cafe.  There was also this adorable Rocking Behavior Chart from The Inspired Apple.

Ultimately, I decided to go with the really great printable chart from the Creative Lesson Cafe Teachers Pay Teachers site.  It was a free download at the time- catch it while it's free!  I printed on regular printer paper, cut down each section, laminated, and then taped in the correct order.  (My home laminator is limited to smaller pieces of paper.)

The next piece to search out or create was the monthly communication calendar.  In my searching, I came across this post from Lori at Teaching With Love & Laughter.  She has created monthly clip chart take home calendars for FREE!  For the most part, this is not a huge change from my previous monthly communication calendars.  I love the fact that the behavior chart is listed on each monthly calendar page.  The students get to color in the blank chart at the beginning of each month and the parents get a visual reminder of the behavior system.  This is AWESOME.

Download from TpT
Finally, I needed to create a behavior contract.  This is something I have always had my parents and students read and sign.  I like to begin the school year with clarity.  I believe I've put the finishing touches on my behavior contract.  I have my own Teachers Pay Teachers site, where I've only posted things that are free, because I haven't made anything I would want to pay money for as of yet.  Here's the link to my behavior contract.  It's free and it's a Word Doc.  Page 2 lists our class rules, which I modeled after Sara Cooley's 5 Bee Promises from First Grader at Last.

Here's to a successfully managed class in the 2012-2013 school year!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Reading

Just before beginning summer vacation, I elected to bring home several education-related books from my school collection.  These included Kathy Richardson's Understanding Number Concepts, Number Talks: Helping Children Build Mental Math & Computation Strategies by Sherry Parrish, my personal collection of Debbie Diller books (Literacy Work Stations, Math Work Stations, Spaces & Places), along with a few other books.  I really enjoy going back through these books and reflecting.  (Obviously, this is something that takes place when Sydney is napping or down for the night.)

The summer offers great opportunity- I have time to read!  I didn't want to limit my reading selections to what I already had either in my personal collection or borrowed from the school collection, so I often ask my friends and family (or scour the NY Times Bestseller lists) for recommendations.  This recommendation came to me by way of my neighbor.  She was reading the book Imagine, by Jonah Lehrer, in May and highly recommended that I read it keeping my experience as a public k-12 educator in mind.

I am fortunate to have access to a wonderful public library, with a branch located a few miles from my home.  I hopped online and searched the catalog to see if the book was available.  It was a newly published book at the time.  I found multiple copies that were all checked out.  I got on the waiting list (as number 17).  I thought I'd never see the book...

Until 2 weeks ago.  My turn had arrived!  Lehrer makes this book very easy to read.  He puts some very scientific knowledge into the hands of readers with vocabulary that isn't beyond the average reader.  The examples of creative moments in real life, creativity-icons such as Bob Dylan, the folks at 3M and creators of the Post It note, the Silicon Valley, Keith Richards, William Shakespeare, artists of Florence, philosophers of Athens, and others, hammer in the absolute importance of cultivating creativity.

As an educator, the sections of the book that spoke to me were those specifically education-oriented.  These were located in the Chapter The Shakespeare Paradox.

  • "The point is that the typical school isn't designed for self-expression; the creative process is often regarded as a classroom failure." p. 231  
    • Lehrer spent time visiting NOCCA, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, a program for teens around the New Orleans area.  The students that attend are highly creative, highly motivated, and show great perseverance.  Kyle Wedberg, CEO of NOCCA, was interviewed by Lehrer and said the following:
    •  "Everyone agrees that creativity is a key skill for the 21st century.  But we're not teaching our kids this skill.  We've become so obsessed with rote learning, with making sure that kids memorize the year of some old battle.  But in this day and age that's the least valuable kind of learning.  That's the stuff you can look up on your phone!" p. 231
  • Another facility of education that Lehrer visited was High Tech High, a San Diego charter school.  The school emphasizes "learning by doing."  Lehrer interviewed the CEO of the school who said the following:
    • "[John] Dewey said it best: 'Understanding derives from activity.' Kids don't learn when they're consuming information, when someone is talking down to them.  They learn when they're producing stuff." p. 234
    • Lehrer summarizes by saying "That's why the best schools ensure that unstructured play- what happens when the child creates and explores on her own- is an essential part of the classroom experience." p. 236
After reading Imagine, I am very thankful.  As a kindergarten teacher, I believe that I have the power to cultivate creativity in my students.  I don't have the pressures of high stakes testing, although I still consider myself to be accountable for student success.  May the 2012-2013 school year be a year of cultivating creativity in Room 39!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Father's Day Gifts

Father's Day 2012 has come and gone.  The Room 39 kids made their gifts in the last week of school.  Our mother's day gift was a beautiful necklace, made from a washer, a ribbon, and a decorative bead.  So, keeping in the same trend of diy gifts, we created a key chain for the fathers.  

Each student wrote their name with a Sharpie marker on one side of the washer. Is there any sweeter gift that one with your 6 year old's handwriting on it?

 For our Mother's Day gifts, the kids stamped their names.  Stamping just took too long for a last week of school activity.

Then, the students stamped "DAD" on the opposite side of the washer.  These stamps came from the Target Dollar Spot.  When I saw them, I got 5 sets, not having a specific task in mind.  After researching options for ink, we used STAZ ON ink (purchased at JoAnn's).

Key rings were purchased from a craft store as well.

To top off the gift, students created their own original cards.  We hole punched the corner of each card and attached the key chain with some curling ribbon.  Our father's received their gifts after the last day of school, so I'm not sure what the response was, but I'm guessing they were pleased to receive a practical, yet sentimental gift.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Summer Bucket List

The last day of school has come and gone... and I'm now trying to catch up on the things I enjoy to do in my leisure time.  I plan on reading, blogging, and most importantly, spending time with my little girl and husband.

I said goodbye to my students last week and as my parting gift, I created a "Summer Bucket List" for the Room 39 kids.  

I have always given my students 2 gifts throughout the year- a Christmas gift and an end of year gift.  I purposefully give gifts at these times because the kids are getting ready to spend a large amount of time away from the routines of school.  I want to encourage them to keep their minds in some sort of "school" like mentality.

When I first began teaching, I was in a low-income school and my gifts were usually school supplies that students could take home and use.  I've kept in that trend, even when my students aren't as needy because I want the students to be able to "play" school, just like real school.

The bucket contains the following:
  • summer reading program information and story time information from our local public library
  • sharpened pencil
  • 2 sets of addressed, stamped envelopes and cards (addressed with the mailing address for myself and our class paraprofessional)
  • a piece of sidewalk chalk
  • wedding bubbles

This bucket list is available on Teachers Pay Teachers as a freebie.  (I'm so new to TpT as an uploader, so anything I upload is free.)  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

And I'm back!

 The chaos of the school year took over.  I am making a resolution (in April) that I will post at least weekly.  My great group of kiddos and I have been very busy over the past few months.  Here are some snapshots of the fun.

During the month of November, my kids brought in non-perishable food items for the holiday season to share with families in need.  I was so touched by the generosity and compassion my students demonstrated.

The PTO sponsors a holiday plate raffle in December.  Each class gets to decorate a plate and it is raffled off at the December PTO event.  Here's our cool plate- each student dipped their finger in white paint to make a snowflake.

One of my Christmas gifts was this sweet Christmas tree that lights up!  The parent had made an ornament for each child in the class.  This will be a part of my room for years to come.

My kids are really great at thinking and writing- We use a lot of thinking maps.  Here is a example of 2 thinking maps that we've completed through magazine collaging.  This was during a study of needs and wants.  The blue paper is the "Needs" thinking map and the yellow paper is the "Wants" thinking map.  (Please note, the photo on the top right is peas.)  

I love the way the kids apply their knowledge of letter sounds to their writing- the bottom picture on the left is of an I Pod Touch.  

I was lucky enough to attend a Debbie Diller conference (WOOHOO)! The conference was held at the beautiful Hotel Jefferson in Richmond, VA.  While at the conference, I picked up a lot about math workstations and building vocabulary enrichment during instruction.  I bought the Math Work Stations book and she signed it!

March came with Read Across America month.  For those not in the know, Read Across America is held in honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday.  My class celebrated with a weekend meet up to see Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.  One of our awesome mothers made delicious treats for us to enjoy at school.  See Thing 1 and Thing 2!

In preparation for Spring Break and our math egg hunt, we read the book Rechenka's Eggs by Patricia Polacco.  Afterwards, we created our own papier mache eggs.

We also studied Community Helpers during the month of March.  The biggest hit by far were the firemen from our local fire station.  

 That's enough catching up for now.  I will uphold my resolution!  I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

ABC Stamps

So when Target was having their awesome sale in the Dollar Spot, I was only able to find 1 set of alphabet stamps on sale (sad face).  But, the others were only $1, and to me, that's worth it. 

I created an activity for my students to "stamp" their name the very next day for morning work.  With the amount of stamp sets I had purchased, I was able to have at least 2 sets at every table.  The morning of, I quickly found out that this was very time consuming for my kinder-friends. 

I really was pleased to find the stamps at such a great price, but will be holding off on using the stamps until literacy workstations.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

30 Cents Target Dollar Spot Deals

I suppose Target was trying to make room for new merchandise in the dollar spot.  Whatever... I made out quite well- check out my stash that I purchased, all for 70% off (of a dollar). 

I got some pointers, pom poms, pipe cleaners, happy birthday certificates, letter stickers, cheapo dry erase boards and markers, tin buckets, letter flash cards, animal flash cards, foam blocks, rubber stamps, stamp pads, name plates, labels, chap stick, and MORE!

I already have plans for what I've purchased.  Most of it has been put in the hands of my kids already.  Next week we'll be practicing our "Read/Write Around the Room" workstation and those pointers will be put to good use.  My kiddos already use them around the room for calendar, Reader's Workshop, and at our Word Wall.

We are celebrating our first classroom birthday this week, so the birthday certificates couldn't have come at a better time.  I also got sets of bookmarks and these have already found a home with each of my students in their daily book bag.