Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Simple System #1- Reading Groups

I use the Guided Reading model for my reading groups. It took me several years to get organized. There are many more simple systems I have regarding guided reading, but for today, I’m just focusing on how I organize my plans. Keep an eye out for more to come! Remember, this is just what helped me. I’m not encouraging you to do it my way. I’m hoping that my way will spark your imagination to develop, if you haven’t already, your own way.

I keep all my plans in a crate right next to my reading table. Even though I move kids frequently and rearrange groups quarterly, I always have the same reading groups- red, yellow, and blue. In my crate, I have 3 red folders, 3 blue, and 3 yellow. I put them in order according to the order they come to the table (i.e. if yellow group comes 1st this quarter, I put the yellow folders first.). The first folder for a group is always the seatwork folder. I keep general seatwork that would work for that group in there, as well as seatwork that’s specific to the book we’re reading. In the next folder, I keep their current book, plans, and running record notebook (that’s another entry waiting to be written). The last folder for each group is a folder for assessment records. I also put any plans that I’ve already completed in this folder. In the back of my crate, I keep books that I frequently use and like to keep on hand. Typically they include: seatwork worksheet books that are tied to the current needs of my students, a dictionary, a rhyming dictionary, and my cumulative records for student reading scores.

Do you already have a great system for organizing your lessons? I’d love to hear about it!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Behavior Management

The picture above is of my actual classroom clip system. They start each day on green. If they’re being a model student, they get to move their clip up. Those students are my helpers (aka superstars). Students have to move their clip to the right and down for not-so-model behavior. Each color has a set amount of recess time. I’m not going into too much detail regarding my specific system, because I don’t think that it’s what helps my class run smoothly. Instead it’s the principals behind my behavior management system that make it run smoothly. Having good behavior management skills is just as important as having strong academic knowledge. Without both people will rarely be successful teachers. Following is an attempt to summarize my beliefs.

Build a strong relationship with your students. If your students don’t know you truly care for them, you’re going to struggle all year.

Make their learning experience positive, rigorous, meaningful, relevant, and attainable. Getting students to comply is 100 times easier when they understand the relevance of what you’re teaching to their lives, and believe they can succeed. Be very explicit whenever possible. Sell them on the importance of what you’re teaching. Learning, when optimized, is very gratifying. If they want to be in the activity you’re doing, they’ll be more mindful of their behavior. I know you won’t always be able to have lessons like this, but if you help your students get used to being good learners, it will carry over into the lessons that aren’t as conducive to being positive, rigorous, relevant, and meaningful.

Be consistent and spontaneously inconsistent. In the beginning, show your students that you mean what you say. Let them know that you’re not going to give 10 warnings, and then yell and lecture before you doll out consequences. One you’ve established consistency, then spontaneously be inconsistent. Occasionally, when I don’t feel like checking homework, I’ll tell me kids if they forgot their home work then they just got super lucky because I’m not checking it today. This way they have boundaries, but they also see a fun side of me.

There’s so much more I could say… I really think I could write a book! However, my NUMBER ONE principal with behavior management is to NEVER, I REPEAT, NEVER, take away their hope. In my class they know that they always have the opportunity to earn something back. I forewarn them they earning something back takes more effort than getting it in the first place, but it’s never unattainable. This helps tremendously when getting kids back on track for the day.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Simple Systems

A critical part of teaching is developing your systems. These are simple elements of your day that, if not managed correctly, can ruin your day. They include things like: how students turn in their homework, when pencils get sharpened, how students get from their seat to the door, where you keep your sub plans, how you pick who gets to be a helper… Overlooking these simple systems is like planning a wedding and forgetting to prepare for the marriage.

I’ll periodically share my systems. You’re more than welcome to use them, but that’s not my intention in posting them. My intention is to give you ideas. You’ve got to find what works for you, your students, and your building.

When you do develop a system, don’t just try it for a week. Even if you don’t love it, stick with it for a couple of months. It’s important for you and your kids to be able to develop a sense of routine. When I finally recognized that I needed some systems, it was incredibly difficult for me to stick to them. It often seemed easier just to change and do something else. It took me a long time to just commit. Now that I have systems that work for me, I teach them to my students until they become second nature. My students seem to find comfort in the regularity of my classroom.

I know what you’re thinking… what about the spontaneous teachable moments. Don’t worry about those until after you’ve got the basics down. Once your kids are strongly grounded with their behavior and classroom systems, then you can occasionally have wonderfully adventuresome moments. Until then, teachable moments are often avoidance in disguise.