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Teamwork is Dreamwork

March 27, 2017

Working as a team can be hard. There are always the students who do the right thing. On the other hand, there are always those students who seem to know exactly what to do to push your buttons and do the opposite of what you’ve asked. Teamwork can be a tricky concept for students to grasp. At a young age, children are learning to cooperate and share with their friends. Creating a whole class reward system can really invest those students in “getting on the team” and helping to work together towards a common goal. Here are a few ideas:

Brownie Points

Place a real cookie sheet on the board or somewhere visible in the classroom. Create fake brownies using brown construction paper, etc. Laminate and place magnets on the back. Show the students what it looks like and sounds like to earn a brownie. Give examples so students have clear expectations of how they can show teamwork. Each time the entire class works together and follows directions, place a brownie on the tray! Celebrate! Make it a huge deal! Let them know how proud you are to see them working together! Once you fill the tray, think of a fun reward the students can earn. To make it more personal, have the students come up with their own appropriate rewards to go in the bank of possibilities.

100% Jar

In our class, we have a 100% jar. We bought tiny basketballs and a miniature hoop. Each time the students are displaying teamwork, the class earns a “slam dunk.” Once the hoop is full, we earn a playground party! We let the students choose what their reward will be. We have clear expectations of what it looks like to show teamwork and how they can earn basketballs!

Mr. Potato Head

Just like the “Brownie Points,” you can build a Mr. Potato Head, earning pieces along the way. Tell the students what it takes to earn a piece. Once you have added every piece to Mr. Potato Head, your students earn a reward! It’s up to you if you want the system to be both positive and negative. You can take pieces away for students who display un-sportsman like conduct in the classroom. Those friends who did the right thing will be motivated to help those students step it up and show some teamwork.

Classroom Community Classroom Management

Dealing with Difficulty: 5 Ways to Handle Challenging Students

March 21, 2017

We all have been there and it seems to happen every school year despite our best efforts and repeated prayers. Students are placed in our classroom who become or already are habitual troublemakers. Taking into consideration the fit throwers, the eye rollers, and the no sayers, this post is for all you teachers who struggle to reach and ultimately teach those children.

Here are 5 tips on how I cope with these difficult students –

1.) Clearly Defined Expectations & Consequences

This is the most important thing that you can give your challenging students and the rest of your class. Classroom expectations should be visible, easily understood by your students and reinforced whenever necessary. Consequences should be established but not necessarily always shared with your students (it’s sometimes wise to have a few unexpected tricks up your sleeve).

2.) Consistent Contact with Parents:

Keeping parents in the loop is a must. It is important for not only the parents to realize that you are taking a vested interest in their child but also letting the student know that you and their parents are on the same team. An email, a phone call or even a quick note home on both good AND bad days will move mountains in the long run.

3.) Sympathize with the Student

Validating a student’s feelings does not mean that you agree with them or their actions. It does help however confirm to them that you know that their feelings are real, honest, and normal. More times than not, students just want to be heard and understood. 

4.) Stop Bargaining & Arguing

Challenging students are often times well versed in the art of manipulation and banter. Indulging this will only increase the likelihood that said students will repeat the offense and later try and argue their way out of a consequence. Be firm and always follow through. 

5.) Never Give Up

Bottom line… no child is ever worth giving up on. Hang in there. Be consistent and lean on your family, colleagues and loved ones on those tough days. 

Until next time teacher friends, keep changing the world and stay positive!

Classroom Community Featured Morale

Our Words Build Their Worlds

March 20, 2017

“I am a leader! I am a champion! I am a world-changer! I am number one! I am so special! I am so loved! I know Mrs. Gardner loves me! And I love her, too!”

My students hold up their “number ones” and say this at the end of every. single. day. I believe this is one of the most important things I do as a teacher.

I got the idea from a pastor at our church who started having the middle and high schoolers say it after service. I knew as soon as I heard it that I had to implement it in my own classroom.

It’s more than just words. Words are never, EVER just words. Words build worlds. These words specifically build my students’ worlds. After just a few weeks, when I say “Number ones up!”, before I even say the first line for them to repeat, they’ve already started. If I accidentally miss a line, they are QUICK to let me know.

That’s exactly what I want.

I don’t just want them to say it; I want it stuck in their brains. Once it’s stuck there, it starts to get stuck in their heart. Once it’s in their heart, they’ll never forget it. Even more- they start to BELIEVE it. No one can convince them that they’re NOT a leader or a champion, a world-changer, or loved in the future.

I was in my principal’s office a few weeks ago and on my way out, I passed a wall in her office where she displays notes and art from students in our school. Right there, front and center of all of those notes, I read the words, “Mrs. Price, you are a leader, a champion, a world changer, so special, and so loved.” It brought tears to my eyes. One of my former students had this planted in their hearts and passed it along to encourage someone else!!

I have the words on my wall in my room so my students can not only say it but read it and see it as a reminder all day long. It’s in my TPT store as a freebie if you’d like it for your own room! Can you imagine what our world would be like if every student in America truly believed this about themselves?!

Classroom Community Culture

I Don’t Want To Hear It!

March 18, 2017

I can’t tell you how many times a day I say, “I don’t want to hear it!” When a student comes up to you with their eyebrows raised, talking a mile a minute, you know exactly what they are about to do: tattle! Not only is this extremely annoying (being 100% honest), but it isn’t helping the child to solve their own problems. In the beginning of the year, we teach the children what a TATTLE is. A tattle is okay if somebody is hurt or if the situation is dangerous. A tattle is NOT okay if you can solve it by yourself. Here are a few ideas to help eliminate those tattle tongues in your classroom!

Read Aloud

A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue by Julia Cook is a great read for the beginning of the year. This book tells a story about what happens when all you do is tattle. WARNING: Some children will instantly become petrified to tattle for fear of getting the tattle tongue. This could actually work to your advantage (shhh). In the back of the book, there are rules for knowing when it’s appropriate to tell a teacher.

Rule 1: Be a Danger Ranger

Rule 2: Be a Problem Solver

Rule 3: Now or Later

Rule 4: M.Y.O.B.

If the problem isn’t dangerous and doesn’t involve you, mind your own business. I love how these rules are positively stated rather than telling the child what NOT to do!

Act It Out

One of my favorite parts of the beginning of the school year is performing endless skits. Being as dramatic as possible, show the children exactly what it looks and sounds like to tattle. Act out situations that require telling a teacher and situations that could be solved by yourself using problem-solving strategies and prompts. It’s easier for children to relate if they can hear exactly what tattling sounds like and how obnoxious it really is to have to listen to it.  

Tattle Phone

Using a pretend phone, set a station where children can go and “vent.” Sometimes it’s hard for a child to hold in their feelings and they need an outlet. Rather than tattling, they can practice appropriately “telling” about their situation and “solving” their problem. When the child needs to solve a problem and the other student isn’t in a brain state to calmly apologize and process, the phone can serve as an outlet for the time being.

Good Luck and BEWARE of the Tattle Tongue!

 

 

 

 

 

Classroom Community Classroom Management Uncategorized

Mid-Year Management Woes

March 10, 2017

The second half of the school year is already well under way and if you’re anything like me, it’s time to think about the three R’s.  Reflecting, revamping, and reining in all that could use a little attention in your classroom.

The middle of the year is the perfect time to think about what has worked so far and what has not. With some planning and preparation, you can make the remaining months of the school year successful. Here are three kid-tested, teacher-approved classroom management tips to get you by.

1.) Revisit Your Expectations and Procedures

I can’t stress this enough and it is so easy to take this idea for granted! Sure, your students have heard your expectations and procedures since the start of the school year BUT children can often get complacent with these. Set aside the time to have a review during your morning meeting, write a friendly reminder note to your students’ parents so they can be talking about these things at home, and of course MODEL, MODEL, MODEL! When we model expectations and act out the desired behaviors, we are painting a clear picture of exactly what we want to see from our students. 

2.) Reorganize Your Classroom Seating 

If you haven’t changed your students’ seats since the beginning of the school year, then now is probably the time. The great thing to remember is that you can be flexible with this. Take time to consider if you want to group your students by ability, by gender, or maybe just by personality? What if this doesn’t work you ask? Let the changes ride the rest of the week and then start fresh again on Monday with a new arrangement. I recently did this with my Kinders and it was so neat to see new working relationships forming amongst my students.

3.) Reevaluate Your Current Management System

Mid-year is also a great time to make minor adjustments to your management system. Consider adding some new and fun incentives – sticker charts, punch cards, or even a treat box are great and fairly easy things to implement! Another thing that might need some refreshing are the consequences that you have in place for your students. If you’ve read my other posts, you already know that I am a big supporter of alternatives to classroom clip charts. With that said, I have recently gone over our five classroom expectations once again with my students and revisited the consequences that could follow if a expectation was not honored. It is and has been important to me that my students understand the idea of owning their actions.

I hope these tips have helped give you some ideas of things you might wish to implement in your own classroom and I would love to hear from you if you choose to try anything.

Until next time, keep influencing the world and stay positive!

Classroom Community Classroom Management Uncategorized

Positive Behavior Management

February 26, 2017

Effective management is one of the most vital components of your classroom. Mastering, or consistently working towards mastery, of this is an absolute must in order to ensure an optimal learning environment. As you learned in my previous post, I am an anti-clip chart teacher (no eye rolls please). Instead, my approach is much more student-centered and POSITIVE! Here are three tips, tricks, and/or tools that I use or have used in my classroom to encourage good behavior on the individual level:

1.) Punch Cards:

My students are so into these right now and their quest to earn “punches” for their cards is insane! Here’s how I got started …

I downloaded these FREE behavior punch cards from TPT and printed them onto colored paper. I then let my students choose one card and explained how a “punch” could be earned. You helped a friend without being asked? PUNCH! You were respectful to a teacher or an adult? PUNCH! You used good self-control on the carpet? PUNCH! My two biggest rules when doing this is that students cannot ask for punches for their card and once a punch was given, it could not be taken away – positive remember? Once a punch card is full, the possibilities are endless! You could reward your children with… a trip to the treat box, free time on the iPads, or my students’ personal favorite, lunch with me in the classroom!

2.) SKITTLES:

I keep a jar full of Skittles on my desk at all times and when I see a student making a responsible choice, I give them a Skittle! These little tokens of encouragement have helped me at even my most desperate moments as a teacher. A good example of this in use would be in the afternoons when my Kinders are exhausted from a busy day. During this time, I need them to hang on a little longer and get through our intervention block. Often times I’ll say, “Mrs. Pierce is looking for friends that are focused, so they can earn a participation Skittle.” I make sure not to abuse this though. Most of the time, my students will receive only 1 or 2 Skittles throughout the school day. I’m all about intrinsic motivation, but, sometimes, a little sugar goes a long way!

3.) Smiles, Hugs, and Words of Affirmation: 

This one is super easy and doesn’t require any real work on your part! Students often spend more of their time with you than they do with their own families! Why not make this time special and happy? A little wink, a gentle smile, some kinds words or even a hug just to let them know you care and are proud of them. These acts can go a long way with a child and, many times, they will work harder for you because it’s in them to want to please you!

I hope these suggestions have given you something to think about or maybe a little inspiration for your own classroom.

Until next time, keep influencing the world and stay positive!

Classroom Community Featured

We Wish You Well

February 24, 2017

When you miss out on something, it’s easy to feel excluded.  If we want to build a strong classroom community, we need our sweet babies empathy.  This is no easy task.  Empathy requires children to put themselves in another person’s shoes. To understand how another person is feeling. Simple, right? That’s a hard task, even for adults.  Conscious Discipline, an evidence-based solution to discipline and self-regulation, has an amazing daily ritual for the classroom: the Wish You Well board.

How It Works

You create a large board with a big heart in the center.  Children have a picture of themselves that can be taken on and off the board. When a child is absent, sick, dealing with a difficult situation, etc, the whole class acknowledges the child. You place the child’s picture in the center of the board and the classroom wishes the child well.  This can look a bunch of different ways.  Conscious Discipline provides a song on their website to sing together as part of the ritual. Come up with your own chant.  Be creative.  The idea of recognizing and understanding how another person feels creates a community of empathic learners.

Well-Wisher

In our class, we have a “Well-Wisher.”  The job of the Well-Wisher is to be on the look out for friends absent from school that morning.  Those pictures automatically go on the board.  During Morning Meeting, the Well-Wisher also opens up the floor to anybody else needing encouragement or support that day.  This ritual is amazing to see in action.  The children are reaching out for support and receiving love from the entire class.

Create Your Own Board

Get creative! Your board can be any shape, size or color.  Put a large heart in the center of the board and the title, “We Wish You Well!”  Take a picture of each child’s face. You can put the pictures on small magnets or Velcro pieces.  Have a bag/container for the pictures to go in when they aren’t on the board.  You can have a “Well-Wisher” job to place the pictures on the board and lead that portion of your meeting.

Classroom Community Creativity Featured

Happy Birthday to You

February 8, 2017

Happy Birthday to You!

Happy Birthday dear _____, happy birthday to you! Celebrating birthdays in the classroom can be so special. There are endless possibilities. Go all out.  All students get a turn to have the entire class celebrate them for the whole day! How amazing!  Here are some tips on how to make your babies feel like kings and queens for the day:

Decorate

Put a balloon on that baby’s chair. Let them wear a crown/hat/sticker so everybody knows to tell them, “Happy Birthday!”  You can even go as far as hanging a banner or a sign on their cubby or locker.

Celebrate

Have the students create a special book for the birthday boy/girl. Use your Writing block or a center to have each child create a page to go in the book. The page needs to be all about the birthday boy/girl. You can use any heading you prefer. Here are several I have used in the past: I think (child’s name) will grow up to be a _____, (Child’s name) is special because ______, I want to shout out (child’s name) because _________.  Not only will the children practice modeling kindness towards their classmates, they will also brush up on their sentence writing! Compile the pages into a book and present it to the child during Morning Meeting!

Make a Wish

Have a pretend cake in your classroom. Over the top and strange, I know. It can be a wooden toy cake or made from Styrofoam. Light real candles (don’t forget fire safety rules), sing Happy Birthday and have the child make a wish in front of the class. The idea of everybody celebrating only ONE classmate at a time will help the students learn to be happy for one another.

For the Over-Achievers

Listen, I’ll be the first one to admit I over spend on my classroom. If you feel like indulging, you will not be disappointed in the Pinklejinx Birthday Collection kit (find on Amazon). The 13-piece kit comes with a chair cover, a crown, a hardback children’s book, banner, placemat, etc. Some of the items are unnecessary for a classroom setting, but it definitely has some great pieces. If you’re anything like me, you’ll raid the Target dollar section and create your own kit for way less.  Shhh!

Classroom Community Featured

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

January 21, 2017

Over the summer, I dreamt of how to create the perfect classroom environment. The supplies would be perfectly organized. The students would sit together in color-coded table groups. How would I know who could handle sitting by each other? I could easily eliminate this problem if I started off the year building a strong classroom community. I wanted my students to feel included and to include each other. After wracking my brain and jotting down some ideas, I came up with a game plan for creating this caring community.

Morning Meetings
Start every morning off together as a class. Sing a song or do a fun activity to greet each other. Talk about what to expect that day. Sit around the rug so every child feels included. Have different students help “lead” the meeting and choose the greeting. In our class, we made up a song to sing together each morning. We used the tune to “Good Day” by Nappy Roots and tweaked the lyrics. Watch it in action here!

Afternoon Meetings
If you start off the day as a class, why not end it together, too? This is a great way to debrief about the day. Ask children to share some glows (awesome things) and grows (things to work on) from the day. Brainstorm together how to solve the problems and shout out the accomplishments. Always end on a positive note. In our class, we sing the “Good-Bye Song” from Out of the Box (where are all the 90’s kids out there?) You can find it here!

Children’s Books
I’m obsessed with children’s books. The illustrations, the lessons they teach…I could go on and on. Children love to hear a good story. And so do teachers. Books are a great way to relate issues about social skills and friendship to kids. Read a book and open up the floor for a healthy discussion. Here are a few of my all time favorites: Chester’s Way and Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, Enemy Pie by Derek Munson, The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud, The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister and Ruby the Copycat by Peggy Rathmann.