November 1, 2017

Classroom S&T: What works this year

Every group of kids is so different. You can teach for multiple years and sometimes not revisit the same strategies more than once. What works for one group is likely going to need to be modified for the next. Even being in the same building, I'm always shocked by this.

I started writing this post because I was feeling good about how things were going...then we had a week. They seemingly forgot everything from how to sit in a chair to where to hand in work to yeah, you do actually have to do your spelling homework every Monday andyouknowit'sdueonTUESDAY. Then I felt like it'd be a bit moronic to post this, as NOTHING was working that week. It felt fraudulent.

However, back to that first paragraph ^...every group is different and every day is unique. Things almost never go the way you anticipate and sometimes that's okay. Here's the over-arching of what has worked well...most of the time.

Now that we are over two full months into the school year, here's my list of what has been working for me:

1. The mailboxes. This was an undertaking for me, personally, because I hadn't used any kind of mailbox system since 2010. However, I was tired of students stuffing papers in their desks; graded work that needed to go home actually needed to go home. So now, with any time I would use to pass back work, I put it in the mailbox folders. Each student has a number (we line up in number order, so they know it well and it's mostly alphabetical save for a new student here or there..someone moves away, the number just disappears from the lineup; a new kid moves in, they take that number and it exists again) and they check their numbered folder at the end of the day and pull out their work and it goes straight into their backpack. Not all students check their folder every day but some get a real kick out of it. And, this way, none of it ends up stuffed in desks.

On the front end, I had to train the students, I had to make sure they knew their numbers, and I had to learn their numbers. That's something I never did in the past so this is the first year I can say, without a doubt, that I know everyone's number. They also write it on their work so that's helpful. I am thinking over a way to train students to stuff the folders for me but I would likely need a number/name list for them to reference. Also, having them see their peers' grades isn't ideal, but it's no different than having kids pass work back, right?
I'm still adapting this, but the point is: it works well.

2. Supply check-out. I started this system because I was tired of buying a bunch of supplies and having all of them disappear. It's not quite about the money, because supplies are cheap in August. It's more about the fact that there are no supplies left when someone needs them.

When someone needs a supply, they ask. I put the supply in a basket. The basket sits on their desk. When they're done with the supply, it goes back in the basket and back on my desk. This has mainly been used for glue sticks so far. Sometimes scissors, highlighters, crayons, etc. I'm slowly transitioning to having the students go to the shelf, get the supply they need, put it in the basket, and take it back to their seat instead of having me hand it to them.

I haven't lost anything yet and I think this isn't even about the supply: it's about awareness and the notion of "Oh hey, that's not mine. I should give it back."

I bought these baskets back in 2013 at Big Lots because I thought I might need them for my 2nd grade classroom. I never used them and they've been sitting in a tub ever since. I think I might've come up with this as, legitimately, just a reason to use the baskets.

3. Clip chart. I am the anti-fan of the clip chart but after the last year or the last two years, I've become anti-Class Dojo. I needed some kind of accountability in place because, again, you never know what kind of kids you're going to get. They are always very familiar with the clip chart system.

I use this clip chart mainly for rewarding positive behavior. When a student gets to the top of the chart (Super Student), I write it down on a spreadsheet. When they get to the top twice (not in a row, just cumulatively), they get a You Earned It! slip.

The most popular rewards are chromebook time (I let them sit and play while I teach and they love that) or picking from the prize box. I'm changing the rewards each quarter and this is what it looks like now:

My plan is to really whittle down what they want and give that to them. Kids will do anything if they know they can get what they want.

I think my whole point of this is that there needs to be individual accountability/reward and there needs to be whole-class accountability/reward and there's a very tricky balance between the two. This system, so far, works better than Class Dojo ever did and is only for individual behavior.

As for clipping down, I have Reflection Sheets. I'm not *as* on top of that as I should be. However, I will say that they get one warning, then one clip down, then it's a Reflection Sheet at the time-out desk. Asking students to clip down is 100% about sticking to my class rules and not letting things slide but it's also about picking your battles and being proactive. For example, I have some consistent, constant chair rockers. It drives me insane and then they fall out of their chair.  Does anyone have any advice on this? It's my biggest stumbling block right now.

4. Restroom Tickets.

This is something I made up in 2014. I started it in the fall, a few weeks after school began. In 2015 and in 2016, I didn't do it at the very beginning of the year because I had assumed that students had somehow been ingrained with that innate skill of self-regulation but no. I kept going back to it. This year, I started it right from day one. 
Students get two tickets each month. I use a different color for every month. They write their names on them and those tickets are their responsibility. When someone needs to leave the room for the restroom or a drink, they must use a ticket. They need to sign out and sign back in (a school rule, not wastes an enormous amount of time, in my opinion, because they're not good at reading clocks or writing quickly). 
The tickets are passed back out at the end of the day and it starts over again. I change the ticket color each month and this is for two reasons: 1. If someone lost a ticket at some point, they get a fresh start and 2. All old ticket colors are expired and can't be used so someone isn't getting 4 or 5 trips a day. 
I also posted the rules as a reminder right by the sign-out sheets. That was something I hadn't done in previous years. 

5. Teacher vs. Students
This is my whole-class accountability system. It's basically a tally of points on the board. Me vs. them. I hate that I have to do this but works. I set timers for transitions and when I need them to do something that involves free will. Free will, in a classroom, can easily translate to someone running, someone shouting, someone notdoinganythingtheyaresupposedtodo. By setting and projecting the timer, they know how much time they have. Times stay the same. They always have two minutes to put away their Rocket Math folders and get out their Reading materials. They always have 5 minutes to unpack and sit down in the morning. For quick transitions, when I really want them to earn a point (you, as a teacher, can easily manipulate this system), I give them a minute when I know it'll only take 30 seconds. They need to be ready, quiet, and prepared when that timer goes off. If they are, they get a point. If they're not, I get a point. Points for them equals extra recess (however many more they have than me gets added on in the form of minutes), points for me equals extra math homework for them. 

6. Student-Centered Bulletin Board
I got idea that I really wanted to display more student work this year and wanted to make sure what they were doing was up in the classroom. The room should not be covered in anchor charts only. As a side note, I never, ever have enough wall space. I think a lot of people long for floor space or cupboard space...I just want more wall space. 

I did student "selfies" on this board for the first month of school (they drew a selfie and wrote in something that they were good at), I did a K-W-L chart about September 11th for a few weeks, and then I wanted to focus on the theme of perseverance. I found this pumpkin activity because I had two gaudy, glittery pumpkins that I didn't have a use for and the two fit together perfectly. Each day, two students get a blank pumpkin and a glittery pumpkin on their desk. They have to write in something they persevere at, color their pumpkin, and give it back to me. I display it and they also get to keep the novelty pumpkin on their desk for the rest of the day. 

This has really added to the community feel in the classroom and I like seeing what they come up with as the thing they persevere at. I figure this bulletin board can stay up until December and then I'll do something winter-related that can stay up until the end of January. I'm still looking for ideas. 

I think that's it for now. I'm really prone to trying new things often and writing in my planner when I want to implement them. Trying new things too often isn't productive so I try to space it all out. These are the winners from this first quarter of the school year so hopefully I'll have a few more winners to share later this semester!


  1. Kayla also has something similar in her classroom; when she collected 5 gold stars she got to choose a friend (in a different class) to have lunch with her (or she went to her classroom). it was cute.

  2. Love it! All stuff I would have done...but not this year!

  3. I always had dreams of being a teacher so this stuff just intrigues me. So much detail into a day people dont think about

  4. I'd love to see your student centered bulletin board. :) I'm in the same boat this year with wanting to show more student work in my room.

  5. Love it! I have a mailbox system...actually a set of classroom mailboxes from Really Good Stuff. I used to have student names on them, but when I moved to 6th grade, I realized I could do a number system! One of my classroom jobs is Mail, so I do have a list on top of the mailboxes with the numbers for when that student needs to return papers with student names or when letters need to go to only girls or only boys. Since I teach multiple classes, this is only for my homeroom and I had back tests in class. I only put graded work in myself if the student wasn’t there when I handed it back.
    Their number is also the same number in their textbooks and I have a pocket chart where we keep track of consequences that also has their number. Mine is also alphabetical until a new student comes in. Then that student is just added to the end for less confusion. :)


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