Sunday, August 14, 2016

Classroom Management: Put in the Time to Save Time!

My personal philosophy on classroom management boils down to this: Put in the Time to Save Time.

At the beginning of the school year, I focus very much on social skills, expectations, and procedures. I truly believe that when students know how the classroom functions, there is more room for learning. I have seen teachers who ignore the need to teach these things at the beginning of the school year and it ends up interrupting the classroom and wastes so much time. If I could give first year teachers any bit of advice, I would say spend as much time on procedures and expectations as needed! I remember one year, I had to literally repeat how to come to the carpet from their desks five times before my cute little third graders did it correctly! Thankfully, by the time they come to me (now) in 5th grade they can pretty much follow classroom procedures after they are explained. However... my little lovelies do benefit greatly by explicitly being taught social skills and how to get along with one another respectfully. 

I block out a time in my day to teach these skills and add any others, as needed:
1. Advocate for Oneself
2. Make a Complaint
3. Make an Apology
4. Disagree Appropriately
5. Choose Appropriate Words 

The procedure is (Day 1) brainstorm what why the skill is important and discuss how it can help facilitate a productive classroom, friendship, family life, etc. I share with them the poster for steps to follow in order to be successful with this social skill. Then students complete a "Think Sheet" as homework which is provided for every skill in the book, More Tools for Teaching Social Skills in School Grades 3-12
(Day 2) Role Play situations in which the skill would be practiced. I mostly do this in small groups and sometimes with partners.
(Day 3) Students play Community Building game to enhance the bond between each other (Great Group Games Book)
(Day 4) Real life - We discuss when they have used this skill in the past week. How did it turn out? Were you successful? If not, why? If so, why? How did it feel?

I hang the posters up around the classroom and continue to refer to them for the rest of the school year. I have a Class Meeting once a week and sometimes this is a great moment to reflect on these skills. I also am able to refer to the posters when students come to me privately with a problem. I have found that these 5 skills are the ones that, typically, my fifth graders need guidance in using. However, I have added more as the year goes on, as necessary.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Check Out My Writing Center!

I am taking my classroom piece by piece as I get ready for the school year. Today I worked a little bit on my Writing Center (along with organizing a box of posters I never use anymore, but refuse to throw away, cleaning and reorganizing my giant bookshelf behind my desk, and straight cleaning dirt off of things!). I kept everything the same as in the past few years, but added something a little special....

 Each of the boxes on the shelf hold supplies (extra lined paper, white boards, clipboards, dictionaries and thesauruses). The black box on the last shelf is for published student work) 

Notice that binder behind the pens? I put that together in an effort to keep all of the anchor charts I use during each writing unit! The *plan* is to keep adding to the binder as I work my way through lessons and then students will have a place to go for reference and reminders. 

The binder is set up by genre, although I have the very first section as a plethora of topics for when students get stuck and can't think of any ideas!

After I begin the Narrative Writing Unit and every time I use an anchor chart during a lesson, I will place it in the Narrative Writing section in the binder. If anyone is absent or needs a reminder of the lesson, that is where he or she should go. It's perfect! I made it easy for myself so I can keep up with it. It's easy because I use a document camera to project the anchor charts that I use, so they are all the size of a regular piece of paper. This is also easy because I make these charts on the computer and not on poster paper. 

This next idea I "borrowed" from another teacher many years ago when I was scouring blogs, so I forget who it was, but I love it! I put each student name on a cut-out of a pencil and a magnet on the back. The trays are from the Dollar Tree. I glued thumbtacks to the back of those so I could hang them from the wall. Students track where they are in the writing center by moving their pencil from one step in the writing process to the next. I have my pencil up there, too. That way, students can judge how far behind they are if they are not working in the same step as where my pencil is placed. I also use a calendar at the front of the room where I will label each week with what step of the writing process I will be teaching. Over the years, I realized that these two methods are the best ways to keep students on track and accountable for their work. 

If you are interested in any of the writing units that I teach, feel free to click on the links below to get a preview!
But, first! Check out how I organize the writing materials (notebook and binders) the students use by clicking on the link! How I Organize Student Writing Material



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