Sunday, September 6, 2015

5-1/2 Tips for a Positive, Well-Behaved Classroom

School has started but students are used to carefree summer. . . I have an energetic, sweet class this year, but they are VERY chatty. They like to blurt out whatever they are thinking at the moment. (We've  already had many a conversation about: "Talk to yourself in your own head" or "We don't all need to hear what you are thinking right now. . .")
Within my classroom, I try to focus on specific positive behaviors I expect my students to exhibit. These fall into 3 categories: our whole class, TEAMs of students, and the individual student.

Whole Class Behavior
Tip # 1: Marble Jar
To encourage collaboration and group cooperation, we use a marble jar. Each time the ENTIRE class is on task or cooperatively working together or making wise choices,  I add marbles to our jar. We also have the rule that I cannot take marbles out of the jar; once they've earned the marbles, they have earned them. (If the whole class is not focused or working cooperatively, I do not add any marbles to the jar.)
When the jar is filled (I use a small jar so we are successful!), the class decides on a class party. The only guidelines are that it has to be a party that can take place during non-academic classroom time. In the past, we have had a video game party (kids brought in devices to play together during lunch), a pizza party, a board game party, and even a milkshake party (parents came in with blenders and every type of ice-cream imaginable: lactose-free ice-cream, soy ice-cream, regular ice-cream and again: almond milk, Lactaid, low-fat milk. They made sure every child with allergies was able to participate. I was afraid the circuits in my classroom were going to pop a breaker! But it was a blast!)

TEAM Behavior
Tip #2: TEAM Lunch
TEAM= Together Everyone Achieves More is our motto. It's posted on our board.  I'm sure you've also heard the saying, "There is no I in TEAM." We spend so much time on community building and working towards being a family, that students eventually learn to assist one another. Student desks are arranged in TEAMs of 4-6 children. If the whole TEAM is on task and working cooperatively, or if I see they are helping each other, they earn a point. A tally is kept on the whiteboard and at the end of each month (we changes TEAMs monthly), they earn lunch with the teacher. They bring their own lunch, but we set the table with a tablecloth and I provide ice cream sundaes with all the toppings. TEAMs are so excited to earn this special lunchtime.

Individual Behavior
In comes teacher-extraordinaire, Rick Morris to the rescue! If you haven't visited his website, New Management yet, you must go there immediately!! A veteran teacher, Rick has solid, "tried and true" strategies for positive classroom management, as well as a plethora of ideas for math, social studies, and student engagement. Depending on my class each particular year, determines which strategy I choose to use.  I'm very lucky also because my grade level decides which management system we will use as a whole, so even when our students trade classes for science or social studies, or we do math buddy activities, our system is consistent.

Tip #3: Blurt Alerts
One of my favorites is the use of red hands. Cut a bunch of hands out of red construction paper on a die cut machine. In my class, we call them Blurt Alerts. If a child has difficulty waiting his or her turn and tends to talk out of turn or blurt out, I quietly walk to the student and place a red hand on their desk. No need to call attention to the student or to verbally say anything. The red hand (blurt alert) is a physical reminder to the student. He or she writes their name and places it in our Blurt Alert can. At the end of the week, Blurt Alerts are stapled onto a letter home to parents for their signature. It usually only takes a few weeks of this before they are no longer necessary.  In order to not overlook those students who use self-control, we started also using green hands (green = positive) to give to students who remembered to raise their hand or spoke during appropriate times.

A kindergarten teacher friend told me she uses red feet (again, footprint die-cuts out of red construction paper). Her class tended to get up and wander around the room during work time. When they began to wander, she would give them a red foot as their reminder!

Tip #4: Pink Slips
Pink slips, another brilliant Rick Morris idea,  are what our fourth grade is currently using to start off the year. This emphasizes desired behaviors and puts the student in charge of their choices. When a student is NOT making a wise choice, they are given a pink slip (the form is literally copied on pink paper). The student needs to check off which responsibility they were not meeting. If they feel the pink slip is not fair or unwarranted, they may check off "student comments on back" and write a note. Most of the comments tend to be, "It wasn't my fault. I was telling so & so to be quiet. I wasn't talking!" But then last week, I had a student say that, then say, "Oh, I guess that WAS talking. I should have just used the quiet signal instead." Love it! Pink slips are sent home each week, stapled to a parent letter and returned the next day with parent signature. You can download Morris' packet here. Again, we usually do not need to use these more than a month or two. (And if I just pick up my little clipboard with pink slips on it to walk around the room, most of the class will see it and quiet down on its own.)

Tip #5: Class Dojo
Another great feature about Class Dojo is that you can share and have access to other teachers and classrooms at your same school site. My 4th grade partner and I have access to each other's classes because we departmentalize for Social Studies and Science; our students know that regardless of which class they are in, we uphold the same standards and same accountability.

Tip #5-1/2: Behavior Contracts
If none of the above strategies seem to be helping with a particular student(s), I use individual behavior contracts as a last resort. You can read more about individual behavior contracts here.

How do you set a positive tone in your classroom? I'd love to hear about your classroom management! Click on the buttons below for more excellent ideas!


10 comments:

  1. Some great ideas here, Kathie! I love the "Blurt Alert" idea. As a blurter myself, I think many of us don't even realize when we're doing it. The red hand is a subtle yet definite reminder!

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    1. I used to be a total blurter, too; lol! We usually never need to use the Blurt Alerts very long; it definitely makes students aware and start to self-monitor. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I remember using "blurt alerts" when I taught kinder! Thank you so much for that tip! I (surprisingly) don't need it this year, but we'll see. They'll start getting comfortable soon I bet. Hahaha And yessss to ClassDojo! I'm more successful this year than last with having the parents log on since I put it in my Back to School Night slideshow!

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    1. Great idea to put Class Dojo in your Back to School Night slideshow!!

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  3. Being positive is the key. I definitely agree. Thanks for sharing these great tips.

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    1. Positivity truly makes a difference! Thanks for stopping by, Deann!!

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  4. OMG Kathie, I LOVE the blurt alert idea!!!!!!!!! Thank you for sharing that is awesome!

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    1. Thanks, Mary! The blurt alerts are vey effective (& don't usually last long)

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