Monthly Archives: November 2014


bullying-factsThe word Bully gets thrown around all the time by parents and students. However, from my experience, they do not understand the implications and the power that “the B word” carries. The word bully means something very specific, and a lot of times the word they mean to use is mean or rude. It is up to us teachers to educate our school stakeholders on the differences between the three.

Rude= Inadvertently saying or doing something that hurts someone else. 

Mean= Purposefully saying or doing something to hurt someone once (or maybe twice).

Bullying = Intentionally aggressive behavior, repeated over time, that involves an imbalance of power.

Here is an article from the Huffington Post that gives a more thorough description. 

The majority of the time, in third grade anyway, the culprit is rudeness. Students are still building their social skills and their self awareness and their ability to think forward to how their words and actions will come across to other people. Sometimes meanness can come into the picture, but many times kids just think that they are being funny or making a joke.


Child Development in Third Grade

In the four and a half years I’ve been teaching I have come to know very well that third grade is a big year for child development. Every year in elementary school yields leaps and bounds of growth, but third grade parents are always amazed at how different their children behave throughout the year, sometimes good different and sometimes bad, and how much difficulty they have socially.  And the social aspects of third grade are an even bigger deal than academics, which are substantially harder than second grade.

So I have started to prepare the parents ahead of time by providing them with what to expect. I don’t put together anything fancy. The Internet is abound with resources for the taking. I just send the parents links like this and include social development information in our third grade parent handbook, which you can see here. 


One of these social difficulties third graders face is egocentrism. Third graders usually think only of themselves.  This is completely developmentally normal, but in third grade it starts becoming an issue with friendships and peer relationships.

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I’ve recently had trouble with the students’ cubbies. They don’t have desks, so all of their school belongings reside in their cubbies. I have had a lot of student and parent complaints of  pushing, name-calling, and “bullying” around of the cubbies. (For the record, I don’t like the word bullying. 95% of the time parents and students actually mean meanness or rudeness, not bullying. I think I’ll write another post about the difference.) Egocentrism, third graders only thinking about themselves, is really the trouble. One of my students gets pushed and they automatically think that the other child is has a personal vendetta against them and is being a “bully.” What I am working so hard to do this year is to get students to:

1) Always think the best of people. Don’t assume because someone pushes you that they hate you and are being a “bully.” It is much better to assume it was an accident (and the majority of the time it was.)

And 2) on the flip side, think about how your words and actions come across to other people. (This is for the person that does the pushing.) This is a difficult task for many adults and I tell my students that. If you are trying to get to your cubby and you accidently push another student (which is the case most of them time,) or if you push another student because you are joking around to be funny, they might see it as “bullying,” or the student standing next to them that also got pushed (domino effect) might think it is “bullying.”

My students and I have a lot of conversations about this. We talk about self-awareness and being aware of how your words and actions are perceived by others. We also constantly discuss how we can’t control other people’s actions or words, but we can control how we react to them. So our reaction is the part we should focus on.


Because of all this cubby talk, I have kept a much closer watch at what goes on by the cubbies, and there was a lot of goofing around. I put a piece of tape on the floor and the rule is that if somebody is getting things from the cubby right next to yours, you must wait behind the line until they are finished. So now the cubbies have been declared a no talking zone. Students get what they need quickly and quietly and move on to allow other students access. We also have discussed how you can grab what you need and then move away to organize things, or get your snack out of your lunch, or put your coat on. All those things don’t need to be done right next to the cubbies. My goal is that the tape won’t last forever, that the students will learn to be patient and share our classroom space effectively without the crutch of the tape. But for the time being it is a reminder to them.

Preventing the Before Break Phenomena


A teacher can never expect the same behavior from their students the week before a school break, like Thanksgiving. The kids will be all wiggly, excited, tuned out, and looking forward to some time off. Even your most respectful and responsible teacher’s pet students can be a bundle of energy at this time of year.

Have no fear! There are some things we teachers can do to help!

1. Talk to your kids! This seems like a given, but really make them accountable for their own learning. Tell them that this pre-break learning time can’t be wasted and your expectations aren’t any different.

2. Keep everything as normal as possible for as long as possible. I highly recommend NOT doing a count down, because as soon as you do the kids will check out, even if the break is still three weeks away. Also, don’t do holiday parties until the last possible day. You might even want to keep decorations to a minimum. Anything that makes kids think about break and not school might be working against you.

3. Reinforcement of expectations (before they start acting up and during.) Keep holding them to those high expectations. Remind them what it looks like to walk in the hall and what they should look and sound like during silent reading. Keep reminding them of this all the way until the day before break. You will need to do a lot of reminding when they get back from break too.


My class that I love so much this year is no exception to this before break phenomena. I have had a lot of  chatty and wiggly kids today (the last day of school before our week off for Thanksgiving.) So we stop and have a lot of conversations about appropriate school behavior. And as much as I tell them my expectations aren’t any different, I’m also realistic, and I’m a little more lenient than usual. On the last day there is only so much I can do.

I also know that this phenomena will occur again before winter break, which is why I am giving a unit math test two days before. I also switched my viking unit test that I was going to give the day before break into a project. Then the very last day is a space celebration day because we are in the middle of our astronomy unit. We are doing some fun activities but there is still a lot of structure and learning going on.  We’re watching Wall-e, making space shuttle cookies, and having guest speakers come in.

If I ever have parents complain that I give tests right before break, I tell them that having school days where I’m “not allowed” to teach or assess anything are a waste of instructional time and a disservice to my students whose education I am responsible for. I need to utilize every minute I have with my kiddos!

Have a happy Thanksgiving Break!

Start a Movement!


So apparently my little experiment is going so well that I’m starting a bit of a movement. All the other third grade teachers have done away with students keeping things in desks and instead they keep everything in their cubbies. Two of my teammates have taken it a step further. They both still have 25 desks, but some have been raised to standing and some have been lowered to sit on the floor. The students also do not have assigned seats, but are instead encouraged to make good choices about where they think they will learn best.

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More Data


The previous post contained data from my students about our classroom.

Now, a few of my teammates are starting to move towards having a room like mine. They will be lowering some desks to floor level, raising some to standing level, and creating more floor space to work. They will still have a desk for each student though. Before they decided to do all this they wanted to collect some data from their students.

The following graphs are the results from the 75 other 3rd grade students who are not in my homeroom class. Some of the students are in my classes for math and language arts though.

A little over a third of students said they would like to stand. In my room the kids sometimes stand at the standing tables, they sometimes sit on a chair at the standing tables and they sometimes kneel on their knees at the standing tables. I’ll be curious to see how these numbers play out in the other classes. Untitled1


I very much expected the below result. I have always found that kids like to work on the floor. They can lay down, they can spread out, they can work together. Untitl2ed

I was surprised at how many kids like having their own desk. I wonder why this is so. Maybe they like having their own space that is just theirs, maybe they don’t like having to go back and forth to their cubby to get their supplies. I think I’ll have to collect further data to determine why. Untitle4d

This was a given. Of course the kids want to be able to choose. My question is whether they will be able to handle the choice. We shall see 😉 Untitl3ed

Data Data Data

I give my students surveys regularly so I can assess the state of my classroom and if I am meeting my objectives in not having individual desks. Here is the latest set of data from students in all three of my classes: homeroom, language arts, and math.

I really wanted to teach the kids to be self reflective and figure out how they learn best. The graph below shows generally in what position the students feel they learn best. It is a pretty even spread across the board with laying on the floor as the highest number. This even spread supports the theory behind my classroom because there is not one way I could have my room set and please all of my students. Having variety and letting the students choose is part of what makes my classroom successful. Untitled


This graph also has a fairly even distribution, which always surprises me. I would expect the kids to fight over what I see as the most desirable spots. But I suppose those spots just show my personal preference and not all the kids are like me. I still have students that like to sit at individual desks and tables. The most popular is the floor including the green rug. Lots like to stand. The rocking chair is also highly sought out. Untitl3ed

My teammates have been slowly changing little things this year to relinquish some of their control. They’re currently toying with the idea of giving more student choice in seating without completely getting rid of desks. So I was curious to see what the kids thought about the idea. Untitled2


Things have been going so well in my classroom, then last week I started to have a panic attack that I was setting my kids up for failure in 4th grade because they were not used to sitting in desks anymore. I was very shocked by the results of the following graph. I thought for sure more kids would have been a yes, 4th grade will be hard with a desk, but it was about half and half. I will need to ponder what to do at the end of the school year to help my kids transition back to regular classrooms for 4th grade. Untitled4


Why Should I Worry?

My students are always surprising me. My job will never be boring because I just never know what the kids are going to do! Part of my experiment this year is to relinquish control of my classroom bit by bit. When I designed my room there were several things I was concerned about, but decided to do anyway. And it turns out that I had no reason to be worried.

Here were some of my initial concerns:


I thought that the kids would be forever knocking over the desks since they were free standing and not in pods, but *knock on wood* we have not had one desk go down so far this year. The kids have more room to walk around and don’t bump into the desks as often as they did when I had 25 desks.


Last year my kids were always shoving random stuff into their desks: trash, worksheets, pencils, toys. The kids keep all their belongings in their cubbies so the few desks I have out are empty. I thought for sure I would find stuff in them all the time, but that is not the case! They are always empty.



I was very nervous about this, but I created a nook behind my library. Normally I wouldn’t have a spot in the room I couldn’t see with just a quick glance. I was sure my “troublemakers” would hide out back there. But I have not had any issues in this corner at all. In fact, many of my students that could potentially be trouble makers choose to sit in the corner by themselves so they won’t get distracted. YAY!

So my point is keep your expectations high and hold your kids to them, and don’t assume your kids can’t handle something until they prove they can’t. They just might surprise you 🙂