Thursday, August 15, 2013

Teacher Week: Taming the Wild (How & Why I Don't Use Behavior Charts)

Hello teacher friends!  I'm still waiting for the classroom fairy to come bail me out (hence why I haven't linked up for Classroom Digs or Organizing for Instruction)!  BUT I did want to take a moment to talk about classroom management.

One thing you won't see in my classroom is a behavior chart.

I'm imagining your ominous silence... But bear with me!  I've got some really good reasons.  I'm also going to preface this post and say that I have a pretty small class.  If you've got a big class, I hear you and I understand.  I've had 34 kids packed in a classroom too.  But I want you to read on anyway!

It all started when I graduated college and had no management skills except the behavior chart.  Unsurprisingly, I wasn't all that good with classroom management.  As a sub I picked up a lot of great tricks to get kids to behave for a day, but I still didn't know about establishing a community or how to positively reinforce kids without a reward system and praise.  All I cared about was getting the kids to listen and behave well- and when they didn't, I took it way too personally and felt like a failure, and that reaction made me less able to handle the situation.

So what changed?  I took a class on Positive Discipline by Dr. Jane Nelsen and Conscious Discipline by Dr. Becky Bailey through my church, and it CHANGED MY LIFE.  Seriously friends!  I was not paid to write this post.  I'm just letting you know that if you haven't heard of these resources, you need to check them out.

The biggest thing I had to do was change my mindset.  Conflict in the classroom does not mean I am a terrible teacher.  To some extent it's the natural result of little people being together who haven't yet learned important social skills!  I let go and learned to look at conflict as an opportunity to teach.  Because after all, that's what true discipline is all about- teaching.

The First Weeks of School
We all know the first weeks of school set the tone for the year.  This is one of the most exhausting and exciting times of the year for me.  I feel like I'm constantly on show- because I am!  The key is to model, model, model, and then positively reinforce, reinforce, reinforce.  And did I mention consistent, visual routines?

Establishing Routines
We all know that routines are important for kids.  Well, I can't emphasize enough their importance with the younger kiddos!  During the first weeks of school I try very hard to stick to our schedule.  And we always refer to our visual clip chart schedule, which you can see below.  Consistency is the key.

Role-Modelling & Practice

Another big realization I had after reading the resources mentioned above was that I needed to be a role model for the behaviors I was expecting.  Don't you think it's ironic that when kids are too loud, we sometimes yell to try and make them be quiet?  Notice the key word "make".  I have come to the realization that I cannot "make" kids do anything (unless if I'm one of those frightful drill sergeant teachers).  I can, however, lead by example.  I can be their role model, their guide and their inspiration!

We start off the year by reading David Goes to School by David Shannon, and discuss all the ideas we have for class rules.  Eventually I help the class condense these rules into three: Be Safe, Be Kind, and Be Respectful.  We make an anchor chart with all of the ideas of how we want these to look in the classroom, and then these hang in the front of the room all year long.

The first weeks of school we follow the gradual release of responsibility model with behavior: I Do, We Do, You Do.  I role model the expected behaviors.  We practice them together.  I let the kids practice on their own.  Then I positively reinforce.

Positive Reinforcement vs. Praise

It occurs to me that I should talk about the difference between positive reinforcement and praise.  I want to stress that I do not believe in positive reinforcement as I have seen it treated in many public schools lately- do a trick, get a treat.  I view positive reinforcement as a multifaceted approach.  Dr. Becky Bailey calls this "noticing."  Whereas praise is vague (e.g. "Good job!"), noticing is specific.  "I noticed you gave X a toy.  That was very kind of you to share."  When considering positive reinforcement, I also keep in mind the Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman.  Chapman says that everyone has a primary "love language," or a way in which they feel loved and valued.  I keep this in mind when reinforcing my students- some value a handwritten note more, others a high-five.

Games for Team-Building and Listening Skills

There are many games you can play to help build your classroom community and reinforce the kiddos' listening skills!  For example, take our Playground Tour.  Each day the first week of school I take the kiddos to the playground and we play Follow the Leader.  I stop at periodic points and talk about the playground.  We stop on the sidewalk and touch it, then discuss it.  "What does it feel like?  Hard?  I bet I wouldn't want to fall on it!  Do you think we should walk or run on the sidewalk?"

Simon Says and Mr. Shark are also fun games for building listening skills!  By the end of the first week your kiddos will be so used to listening to you they'll start doing it without thinking.  :)

When the Inevitable Happens

Conflicts do arise.  Billy and Larry want the same toy at the same time.  Voices get raised, tears get shed, and sometimes there are even pushes and pulls.  (And once I even had a biter/spitter... yikes!)  What to do?

Luckily, if you're doing everything mentioned above it shouldn't happen very often.  When it does I have found the strategies suggested in Conscious Discipline to be most helpful.  Here are some things I've found to be very useful:

  • Offer Choices
  • Acknowledge Children's Feelings
  • Natural Consequences

Nikki from Teaching in Progress also has a great post about the Safe Place, which you can check out by clicking on the picture below:

A Word About Boys

This summer I read a book for my new school all about boys called Writing the Playbook: A Practitioner's Guide to Creating a Boy-Friendly School, which I also highly recommend.  This book really reinforced many things I had discovered about boys in my classroom, but it also reinforced my decision to not use a behavior chart.

Boys, as you most likely well know, don't respond well to public critique- and isn't moving a name clip down just about the most public visual reminder you can imagine?  Boys also don't do well with time-outs.  They need public praise, private discipline and restorative justice- that is, the opportunity to fix the poor choice.

Do This, Not That

As I said, I know some of you have way too many students and a behavior chart feels like the only way to keep it all under control.  I don't have a problem with behavior charts in and of themselves, they're just terrible to be exclusively relied upon.  Does Conscious Discipline take longer?  Yes.  Is it totally worth it?  Yes!

If you are needing to use a behavior chart, then please do this...

(Read more about this system at A Cupcake for the Teacher by clicking here).

And not that...

...because there's nowhere to go but down.

Thanks for reading friends!  If you want more ideas make sure you check out the linky party at the top of the post, and you can also check out my Pinterest board devoted to Classroom Management by clicking on the picture below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Monday Made It: Sanity Saving Storage & A Freebie

Okay, I'm just going to confess and be done with it.  I AM TERRIBLE AT MAKING DECISIONS.  Seriously.  I am the world's slowest lesson planner and classroom organizer.  All my teacher stuff has sat for months in stacks in the office closet (and the office floor... and the office couch...) because I couldn't decide how I wanted to organize it.  (And let's not even talk about my classroom- I STILL can't figure out how I want it to look.  I've changed my color scheme three times!)

But today I'm happy to announce I figured it out, thanks to some great Pinspiration!  :)  Here's the ideas and considerations I hashed out.  Just click on the pictures to find out more! (Warning: This is a long post.  But I promise there are freebies to see you through!)

To File or Not to File?
This actually was the easiest decision to make.  I hate filing cabinets- always have, always will.  I think they're ugly and heavy!  Plus I am so bad at keeping up with them because I'm a total stacker by nature, not a filer.  Besides, as a PreK/Kindergarten teacher I've found I have too much bulky stuff to fit into file cabinets, and I want to keep everything in one place.  So there.

[End Rant]

But if you do like file cabinets, here's some ideas for ya:

Literacy & Math Worksheets Organized by Skill (Mrs. Terhune)

Read Alouds Organized by Month (Colleen @ Fun and Fearless in First)

Colleen also organizes a TON of other resources in file cabinets.  You really should check out her post!  It almost converted me to file cabinet-ism.  :)

Binder vs. Tub Storage
This one was a toughie because I love binders and tubs!  There are lots of great ideas for organizing center materials in binders, including...

Lesson Plan Binders Divided into 9 Week Chunks (That's So Second Grade)

Lesson Plan Binders Divided by Theme (Mrs. Terhune): FREEBIE!

Monthly Lesson Plan Binders (Sue @ The Very Busy Kindergarten)

Center Binders using Page Protectors to Store Things Like Game Pieces (Sunny Days in Second Grade)

Lastly, I'd be very remiss if I didn't mention this fabulous resource and freebie!  You MUST read Brooke's post.  I almost went with binders because of her.  Her fabulous freebie includes binder covers and spines organized by month and content area!  (And I love how she coordinated her labels for Teacher Read Alouds with the binders!)

Project Binder-ize (Brooke @ Once Upon a First Grade Adventure: FREEBIE!

But again, due to the various bulky hands-on materials I have for my kinders, I decided binders weren't the best option.  Tubs it is!

Monthly vs. Theme Storage
Yay two decisions down!  (Feels like fifty million more to go...)

Center Materials by Month (Mrs. Fultz's Corner)

Center Materials by Theme (Kathleen @ Growing Kinders)

There were a couple of deciding factors for this one.  First of all, I haven't done much long-range planning yet, so I'm not sure which themes fit with which months at my new school.  Secondly, upon sorting through my materials I realized I had way too much stuff to fit together in just one monthly tub.  So theme storage it is!  If this option is for you, you should definitely check out Katie's great freebie below.

Theme Center Tub Labels (Katie @ Kinder Warriors): FREEBIE!

Rub a Dub Dub Let's Look Inside the Tub
The next roadblock I hit was figuring out what to put into the tubs!  I went back and forth with whether or not I should separate out things like seasonal math manipulatives (e.g. valentine dice, counters).

Math Manipulative Tub Labels (Colleen @ Fun and Fearless in First): FREEBIE!

But in the end I went for keeping everything together in the theme tubs.  I decided I'm too busy to run around finding and pulling out several tubs every time our theme changes.

But how to organize the actual paper centers inside the tub- like recording sheets, play-doh mats, etc?  I found some more great ideas!

Laminate/Velcro Manila Envelopes (Dandelions and Dragonflies)

Ziploc Center Storage (DeAnne @ First Grade and Fabulous)

Ready for some pictures?

Before: YIKES, get me out of here!

During: YAY new laminator!


I ended up making my own labels to accommodate for the variety of tub sizes I had (mostly 16 and 32 qt. Sterilite containers).  You can grab your FREEBIE of these cute labels by clicking on the image below!