Monday, August 6, 2012

Classroom Management = Community of Learners

I was recently asked by an education college student about what I do in my classroom for classroom management.

Below if my response to her. I thought I'd share, and maybe get some ideas from others who post their ideas. Thanks in advance for sharing.

I believe the very best thing you can start off doing is creating an environment or a community of mutual respect. I've even seen classrooms where respect is their one and only class rule. If you think about it, all behavior points back to respect. Respect for others hearts, their things, the school, etc. So from day one we define the word respect and then get into specifics for how to show respect for myself and for each other. Specifics such as what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like. We make anchor charts and model by acting out common scenarios.

I also articulate our job in this school and this classroom. I tell them my job is to help them learn what they need to know to be the smartest first grader they can be and to be ready for the next grade and the next grade and so on so they can one day get a good job. I tell them that their job is to always try their best. We also say that one of our main jobs is safety. Safety for our bodies and our hearts. So our words matter just as much as what we do with our hands.

Summary so far: over the first few weeks we will have discussions, read books, and act out the specifics of respect. At my school this often looks like the "wolf pack way": mutual respect, attentive listening, appreciations, no put downs, and never give up.

One lesson I always do to help create an environment of respect for diversity in our class is the crayon box that talks. Check out my blog post about this lesson for pictures and even an animation of the story.

In our social studies curriculum for the first few weeks we discuss the terms "balance" and "stability" and how we need to be balanced in our classroom. We play games to make these terms concrete and to build teamwork skills. It's important to define a purpose for and practice teamwork. One game we play is like the old game "hot lava." I put the kids in small groups and give them a piece of construction paper. I tell them to work as a team to all stand on the paper without touching the floor. They do this fairly easily and get giggle out of it. Then I give them a smaller piece of paper and tell them to do the same thing. It takes a little more thinking and planning as a team this time. All in all, the fun activities they participate in make a bigger impact and it helps to make complicated behavior terms concrete enough for them to latch onto.

I believe strongly in modeling and practicing procedures. I explain how to walk to line up. Then I model it. Then two kids model it the correct way. Then one kid models a bad example. Then two kids model a good example again. We do this for everything: how to open and close your locker, how to get a sharpened pencil, how to enter the classroom, how to choose a book, etc. You have to think ahead and anticipate the pitfalls and opportunities for the students to lose control and have a plan that you teach them in advance to keep them on track.

I talk to them about the word expectations a lot. I have high expectations for their behavior and their work.

I also have a very fine tuned and thoroughly planned out schedule with established routines so they know what to expect daily. Kids thrive on structure!!! I guide us into that routine ASAP. Again, modeling and expecting specific behaviors. I can't assume they know how to do anything until I have taught it and they have practiced it with success.

I use the Daily 5 for my readers workshop structure, Tabor Rotations for math and a Lucy Calkins style for writers' workshop. (Learn more about Tabor at the Wiki I created.) Science and Social Studies often follows a 5-E lesson model: engage, explore, explain, extend, evaluate. These consistent structures help everyone "stay in line".

Now, after establishing the basis for our classroom and how I expect things to operate and why, I teach them about our token economy reward system. Each student will have a pocket in a hanging shoe pocket organizer.

When I see someone doing "the right thing" they earn a "compliment stick" = a Popsicle. When they earn ten, they can bundle it with a rubber band and make a group to spend on various rewards I offer via a menu. They get to practice the math concept of bundling groups of ten and the economics concept of spending or saving, which are both in our curriculum. Later in the year when we learn about money we trade the sticks in for coins. Now they can practice identifying and adding coins to buy rewards.

Rewards vary from different treasure boxes, to taking their shoes off in the classroom for the day, to bringing a stuffed animal, and so much more.

We also have the color system in order to efficiently report home about students' behavior daily. Kids move their clip down if they have behavior problems, but they can also move their clip back up if they earn that by fixing the problem. Every kid starts out on green but they have the potential to move up to purple if they have an outstanding day.

We also have a class incentive. If the whole class is working together doing "the right thing," then we earn a letter towards spelling out a key word or phrase, such as "wolf pack". When we spell out the word or phrase, we vote on how we will celebrate. Maybe popcorn and a 30 min movie, extra recess one day, a game party, etc. The kids come up with the ideas and we vote. :)

We also use Rachel's Challenge as a school-wide program for participating in acts of kindness and respect for others.

If some children need more than this to help them maintain self control and follow classroom behavior expectations, then I implement a specific behavior plan for that child. I identify specific goals, specific behaviors expected to reach those goals, and then the rewards given if the goal is met. Check out an example of a behavior plan I have used. It's for sale on Teacher's Pay Teachers.

You can find many rewards and behavior plans at...

In a nutshell, I establish a community of learners based on mutual respect by modeling and practicing specific behavior expectations. Then, I reinforce with a concrete reward system that supports our curriculum. All of this takes maintenance throughout the year including reminders and reestablishing objectives repeatedly.

I'd love to hear what you have to share about classroom management!

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