Monthly Archives: September 2014

Classroom Systems

There are so many ways to do everything in teaching, and it seems as though everyone has an opinion about the best way to do things. I’m not saying my ways are the best, but here are some systems that work really well in my classroom.

No Class Jobs

I know this goes against everything they tell you in teaching school, but I do not like class jobs. I feel like I have to make things up to have enough, and the kids always forget and only some kids really care about their job. So here is what I do instead: The school I teach at is a character focus school, so I emphasize responsibility. It is everyone’s responsibility to clean up after themselves. It is every student’s responsibility to make sure they sharpen their own pencils, etc. It is also their responsibility to keep our room clean and clean up even if the mess isn’t theirs. I make sure to reward kids I see going above and beyond.

Extra Bin image (6)

This is one of those little things that makes my life a million times easier. When I give students a stack of papers to pass out, if they have any extras they put them in the extra bin. Then if a student was in the bathroom and didn’t get one, instead of having to ask me for one, they can go get one on their own. Also if they lose a homework worksheet, they can always go get an extra.

Absent Pocket image (8)

I have a magnetic pocket on my whiteboard. As I’m going through the day, if we are doing a worksheet I will put the absent student’s name on a blank one and put it in the absent pocket. Then when the student returns, their first stop is to check the pocket for work with their name on it. I even put tests in there and then the student can bring it to me and I can schedule a time for them to take it later. But it puts the responsibility on them to come to me. I don’t have to chase down kids to assign make up work.

Pencilsimage (7)

I don’t know about you, but I HATE dealing with pencils. I swear the kids eat them. They are always on the floor and I do not like the obnoxious noise the sharpener makes (that is if the kids haven’t broken it.) So I finally found a system that works alright for now. I allow the students to keep 2 pencils in their pencil pouch along with a hand-held pencil sharpener. Every Monday morning I give them 2 new pencils. The only time they are allowed to use the electric pencil sharpener is first thing in the morning and at the very end of the day. The rest of the time they have to use their hand-held sharpener. When I find a pencil on the floor I put it in the red caddy, so if a student has lost both their pencils they can use a lost pencil from the red caddy. I also have a post it note that says “if your pencil is this short (and I drew a line) throw it away!” I have lost too many pencil sharpeners because kids shove itty bitty pencils into them and gotten them stuck.

Lining Up

This might be my favorite system ever. The hours spent wasted arguing over who stands where in line gives me a migrane. At the beginning of the year I assign each student a number, alphabetically based on their last name. Then I teach them to line up in number order. Anytime we leave my classroom, going to lunch, recess, specials, etc, they line up in number order. My number 1 is the line leader and my number 25 is the caboose. This eliminates the need for a line leader job. I also train my caboose to close and lock the door behind them, since we have to do this for safety. The kids are better at remembering than I am. This system takes much less time and keeps talking kids apart. After a few months I switch and do reverse number order. Sometimes I really mix it up and change to first name alphabetical order.

PBS image (5)

Our positive behavior system uses Prosperity Tickets, or golden tickets as I usually call them. I hand them out often, so I keep them on top of my whiteboard so I can easily pull one off to hand to a student. I also punch a hole in them and keep them on my lanyard so I can still give them out when we’re out of the classroom. When students are on task I give them golden tickets and the students save them for rewards. Some of the rewards include being teacher for the day, writing with a fun pencil for the day, bringing a stuffy from home, picking a small trinket from my treasure box, using an ipad during reading time, and several other things. The important thing about rewards is that I let the kids pick the rewards and set the prices. If the kids aren’t invested in the rewards they won’t be motivated to earn tickets. I also give golden tickets if students remind me of things, like reading the learning target, or taking attendance. It lets them be accountable for what’s going on the classroom while helping me at the same time. Only a few students like to remind me of things, but those golden tickets mean a lot to them.

Leaving the Room image

This little whiteboard is amazing. It’s right by the door and each box stands for something. The kids write their name in a box every time they leave the room individually. B- boys bathroom, G- girls bathroom, N-nurse (and I keep the pass right there) S- specialist (counselor, literacy specialist, sped teacher) and L- library.

Math Centers image (4)=

I have other posts about my math centers, but keeping the directions on the board is really helpful so that the students can go back and reference it whenever they need to. It’s also easy for me to update there and hard for the kids to mess with.

Here is a post about my math centers. 

Relinquishing Control

Getting rid of my student desks had a lot to do with relinquishing control of things in my classroom. I am very type A/ OCD/ control freak and this was quite difficult, but really good for me.

Since seeing my classroom set up, my three teammates that I teach 3rd grade with have decided to give up a bit of their control as well. They aren’t ready to get rid of desks just yet, but they have all moved everything out of the kids’ desks and into their cubbies. There are a lot of benefits to this for us in particular because we have the kids switch classes for math and language arts: better student organization, less claims of stealing when we switch seats, and not needing to climb over someone that is sitting at your desk if you forgot something. Some of my teammates have gone a step farther and not given their students assigned desks. Letting the kids pick their desk (much like picking their spot in my room) is teaching them how to make good choices. It also saves hours of time spent making seating charts every time we rearrange the classroom.

The students are capable of much more than I give them credit for sometimes, and I don’t have to control everything.  I am much more sane when I don’t try to.

Student Survey

I could tell that the kids were enjoying my classroom, but I wanted some trend data, so I conducted a simple survey. I asked my homeroom students few questions after they had experienced seven full days in my classroom.

My first questions was asking the students to pick their preferences out of the following list:

laying on the floor

sitting on the floor

sitting at a desk or table

sitting in a comfy chair

standing

The results were surprisingly well balanced. Each child got to choose two options. Laying on the floor got the highest with 14 votes followed by sitting in a comfy chair with 13. Both sitting on the floor and standing had 9 votes. I expected sitting at a desk or table to be low and I only had 3 kids choose it, however, throughout the day there are always kids sitting at my desks and at my table. So maybe they tolerate it but it is not their favorite.

After I asked for their preference of how to sit I asked specifically what their favorite spot in the room was and each kiddo only got to pick one. This was very well spread out as well, which I take to be a good thing. This might be why I have not seen very many arguments over spots: all the kids like different spots. The favorite spot with five votes was my wooden rocking chair. I sit there quite often myself. Besides the rocking chair every other spot mentioned had between one and three votes: the floor cushion, the standing table, anywhere on the floor, on pillows, and the yellow comfy chair. A few kids wrote everywhere was their favorite spot.

My last question was overall what they think about the classroom. I spotted some really great and steady trends through this answer. The students really like being able to choose. I think this is important because if we expect students to make good choices but never give them the option to choose, what are we really teaching them? Many students described the room as comfy and relaxing which is exactly what I was going for. These kids are eight years old; they do not need to be stressed out by school yet. A few kids said my room helps them think and learn better and many of them stated that being able to move around a lot was helpful for them. These are all terrific outcomes that I was hoping to achieve and I am really excited to see how self aware and reflective the kids are being.

I am going to give the same survey to my kids again throughout the year, as well as to my math and language arts class. I will also survey the parents after about a month and see how they perceive the room and what their kids say about it at home.

Kids do what they want

I’m always amazed at how sometimes the lessons I am most excited about are the ones my kids don’t connect with, or how the lessons I’m throwing together at the last second are the ones they are super engaged in. You just never know how kids are going to react. The same goes for my classroom.

I put together a plethora of sitting and standing opportunities in their learning environment and they are utilizing them, just not in the way I had intended.

photo 3 photo 2photo 1

This is me relinquishing control of my classroom, (something I find quite difficult to do.) As long as the classroom is working for them, I don’t really care how they use it 😉