Archive for the ‘Classroom Management’ Category

Make Your Class Roster the Best It Can Be!

Effectively using a class roster was something I had to learn along the way. A spreadsheet of names can be  a huge help in the jumbled up life of a teacher if you organize it well. I use class rosters to keep track of attendance, grades, in class activities, and of course the fire drill! Here is a picture of an old roster of mine. Let’s walk through how to use it.

Attendance- If students are not present they receive a slash through the box. If they arrive tardy at a later point, a straight line is added underneath the slash. When I began teaching, I fell into the trap of marking an “A” for absent students and then trying to scribble over with a “T” when they walked in the room a few moments later. Rookie mistake!

Grades- After a stack of papers has been graded for a class, write down the grades in one column of the roster. This allows for grades to easy and quickly be entered into your online gradebook in alphabetical order. You avoid the hunt and pecking of looking at the score on the paper, finding the name, typing it in, and moving your mouse to the next person elsewhere on the list. Also, I found that I loved having knowledge of who hadn’t turned what in so close to me. While I took roll I could say, “Hey, you owe me an assignment!” without looking at my computer.

In Class Activities- Use your roster to mark who is participating in a class activity to mark later for participation points in the gradebook. Notice in the picture that one column is labeled “Outline.” My students worked on essay outlines and I checked them upon completion. All I had to do was walk around the room as they worked, briefly scan their outline for approval, and star my roster to indicate they earned credit. Notice that some students earned a 90 instead of a star (which indicated full credit of 100 points). This is where I docked off 10 points for lateness where necessary. This is an easy, easy way to grade. The students get instant feedback and you aren’t stuck grading your life away. Win win! Roster

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Countdowns Lead to Explosions…

The school I work for will be out of session in 8 days. The kids are counting down, the teachers are counting down, there even is a countdown on the sign in sheet in the main office (it makes me smile each morning). Yet you ask, is there a countdown in my room? Do I speak in countdown numbers to my students? No. In the world of my classroom, I pretend school is the song that never ends, it goes on and on my friends.

Why?

Explosions. That’s why. Everything I know about life tells me that countdowns lead to explosions. A bomb being detonated. Fireworks at New Year’s Eve. Hysterics on American Idol.

Acme is far and away superior.

Acme is far and away superior.

That’s not cool when translated into the classroom. I imagine brain explosions. Manage your students’ behavior and motivation very firmly in the final days of school. Think about the answers people give when describing what they would do if the world ended tomorrow. These answers are decidedly split into two factions- family time/praying and last minute pleasure seeking/general debauchery. Kids can sometimes look at the last couple days of school as the end of a large element of their lives. “I can’t get detention on the last day of school, so I can do whatev!” or “Homework doesn’t really matter now, school is out in two weeks!”

Whether you are teaching 7th graders (ahem!) or seniors about to graduate, try to look at those last days not as a futile end of days but as days in the school calendar just as important as a random Thursday in October. That being said, school is almost out for summer! Enjoy counting down those final days with a gleeful giddiness (in private)!

Totally unrelated awesome picture via Reddit.

Are Your Class Incentives Kinda Like Airline Rewards? Bleh!

Airline rewards….suck. This is a fact. The reward is usually something like, “buy 32 flights and receive a free 1 way ticket on this weekday in November!” Yet we all know as reasonable adults that we don’t truly need or deserve a reward, it is just an incentive to keep doing something. Students don’t need or deserve rewards either. Does that make me sound mean? Maybe, but it is the truth. As a teacher, keep that crabby ole’ thought in your mind, because the ultimate “reward” for a student is the knowledge gained. I had a college professor who said that “Success is your reward.” A reward has its motivational limits anyway.

However, there are many valuable reasons to give students rewards. I primarily focus on students who need to be encouraged and students who go above and beyond. Students who do what they have to…well, do you get a bonus for doing something (maybe even the bare minimum) you already are required to do? No. This attitude is what keeps rewards fun and special in my mind though.

I also have some principles when it comes to the reward itself….limit the candy. Yes, I do give out candy. Every time a kid gets a tootsie pop though, I think of the 20% of children in the US who are obese and I feel like a bad teacher! I recommend focusing on rewards which are useful or positive for the student. Since candy is such a go-to item and kids love it, here is a list of some other options that can compete.

  • Pencils!
  • Hand held pencil sharpener
  • Stickers
  • Erasers
  • Leadership role in class activity
  • Bonus Points
  • Dismissal from class 2 minutes early
  • Hall Pass
  • Errands (yes, kids love to run errands for you!)
  • Positive notes to parents
  • Late work excuse
  • Praise (so simple, but we forget)

You can also let your student choose the reward received! This also allows you some insight into what they most desire and perhaps why. Here is the ticket I give out:

Thank You for Being Great!


This ticket can be redeemed for one of the below options:

Þ   Email or Letter Home to Your Parents Informing Them of a Job Well Done!

Þ   Late Homework Assignment Taken without Penalty!

Þ   10 Bonus Points Added to a Low Grade!

Þ   Extra Hall Pass when You are in Need!

Your hard work and kindness is always appreciated in this class!

 

Empty Hands

We have all seen it in our classrooms. Those pesky kids who show up without any materials. No book, no pencil, no paper, and certainly no homework. So what do you do with those empty hands?

Empty Handed

My first year on the job this really got to me. As a classic overachiever, lover of school, I was not able to understand what was going on in their head! Did they think they wouldn’t need anything? At some point however, I acceptable the fact that these empty-handed students just hadn’t been thinking…and that it would be okay, as long as there was someone else around to think of what to do with them.

No Pencil: I lend you one, so you lend me something in return. I take shoes, money, keys, jewelry. Repeat it like a mantra. Shoes, money, keys, jewelry. These are things your student will not want to leave without, so they will remember to swap back with you at the end of the hour. I do not take jackets, hats, binders, or other textbooks. They will leave without these. If they do leave their money, then buy yourself a candy bar and enjoy!

No Paper: “Sure, here is a sheet of paper. Now, do I need to call your mom and let her know that you need paper or can you?” (They can.) “Also, you never get something free in life. To earn that paper, you can pick up 3 pieces of paper/ trash off my floor before you leave today.” Maybe it sounds grouchy, but I stress that idea of not getting something for nothing a lot in my class. Entitlement is an awful personality trait.

No Book: Go get it from your locker, and take a tardy. This is something you as the teacher can’t instantly solve. They need it, but there are consequences for being unprepared. In my school district, two tardies equal one absence. This helps out the 6-12 teachers, but I’m not as familiar with elementary schools. So readers, if you are the student’s only teacher, what other solutions can you offer?

The pencil idea I learned from other, wiser co-workers and the solution for paper I created myself. Once again, pick and chose what you like and what will work for you. Ultimately, whatever you do in your classroom has to make you happy and hopefully avoids creating any resentful feelings to those who come with empty hands.

Bathroom Breaks

I teach at a junior high. Naturally, to 13 year olds, there is nothing more exciting than getting out of class, perhaps unnecessarily, to wander the halls on the way to the bathroom. Therefore, sometimes it seems like we are playing an elaborate game of red light- green light. The teacher says no to the bathroom, the student insists that they really, really need to go. Ten minutes later, the teacher is wondering where that kid is.

What do you do? My first year, I faced a sneak-attack when a series of six boys asked to go the bathroom in a matter of minutes. Shouda seen that one coming. I got had. So how do you allow normal body functions without having half your class ask to leave?

Restroom

Give passes for the school year in advance– my school gives each student 3 passes a week as a page in their school agenda. A teacher dates and signs the pass when it is used, and after the 3 passes are gone, well, they are gone. These passes count for any need a student might have- bathroom, office, library, water fountain, whatever. I like this method a lot because it also teaches conservation skills. Some kids really use all 3 passes on Monday in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd hour, then are in a tight spot the rest of the week.

If my school did not have this practice and it was up to me to implement it, I have debated how many passes I would give out per week- 1 or 2. I would probably be nice and allow 2. It is always good to have an emergency pass to use, for unexpected trips to the bathroom, plus I like to encourage trips to the library when they are done with their work.

Another tip, a fellow awesome teacher I work with does not allow students who are tardy to go to the bathroom. She figures that if they are tardy then they must have really accomplished anything needed in that extra time. This is also incentive to be on time, which is great too.

 

Seat Signals

Seat Signals are a clever way to keep the classroom pace ticking along smoothly and students focused with minimal distractions. Unfortunately, junior high kiddos aren’t exactly low-key with their needs, so it is important to create very low-key ways to take care of business and continue with the learning.

Raised Hand

Seat Signals- nonverbal ways students indicate to the teacher they need something without getting up from their desks.

  • Bathroom Visits- raise hand with hall pass out on desk to be signed.
  • Pencil Sharpening- hold up pencil in raised hand. Wait for teacher to visit desk and switch out student’s pencil for a sharpened one. Keep lots of sharpened pencils on hand. They can pick their pencil up at the end of class.
  • Tissue- raise hand and pinch nose with other hand.
  • Library Visits- hold up book in raised hand with hall pass out on desk to be signed.

All of these nonverbal requests should also be responded to nonverbally- either a nod of a head indicating a “yes,” a pencil or tissue handed to the student, or a hand signaling, “not now” or “in 5 minutes.”

You might be wondering why sharpen the pencils for the students…well, pencil sharpening is a loud and time consuming process. The sharpener in my class is attached rather high on a bookcase and its screws are loose so the whole thing wobbles. Naturally, the short kid without a steady arm gets a junk pencil every time. I’m just going to take it down and buy an electric sharpener for my desk, just for me to use!

Notice that for trips outside the classroom, the students have hall passes which must be signed. They receive these passes at the beginning of the year- 3 for each week. Once they use them, it’s too bad, so sad. This is a school-wide technique and I really love it. The students must learn to conserve passes and not use them all up on Monday. If your school doesn’t do something like this, try initiating it on your own! It’s very clear-cut and there is no ground for confusion.

Taping Down an Organized Room

At the end of each school day you could often find me walking around the room, picking up paper and straightening desks. This was usually a small task, but it was a tedious one. Like most teachers, I have 32 desks that are filled with 32 little people. This means that there are 32 desks to straighten into rows and lots of little pieces of paper to reach down and get! Would you want to do this?

Ms. Zelenski's Room

As  result I have learned that there needs to be a routine of organization- so everyone can pitch in to ensure desks are in their correct places and the room is tidy. An education classmate of mine used tape to indicate where exactly on the floor the desks should be positioned. I plan on using tape to outline all my rows of desks this upcoming school year.

Duct Tape

Lots of times I have instructed my students to straighten their desks. Leave it neatly sitting square behind the one in front of you! However, I think this task is easiest followed when you have something to guide you. There is a good reason why roads have painted lines!

Feedback- taping desk outlines, orderly or OCD?

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