Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Taming the Wild: Positive Reinforcement

I think I've finally figured out my classroom management strategy that keeps my class and me happy and focused on the positive. This is how it goes:

1. A student breaks a classroom rule:

Be on time to class, for group work, etc.
Be ready to work.
Follow directions immediately.

Bring these items to class every day: agenda, paper, pencil/pen, and a book to read.
Be ready to listen and learn.

Treat others with kindness and respect.
Speak using appropriate words at appropriate times.
Keep your cell phone turned off.

Do your work to the best of your ability.
Use your time in class to complete your work

Take part in discussions and activities.

2. I notice the misbehavior, look for someone who is following the rules, then clap once.

3. Students look to the classroom rules on the wall, ask themselves if they were following the classroom rules. Recalibrate, so to speak.

4. I will reward the student I noticed who was following the rules, then document both the student who behaved positively and the one who misbehaved.

Students love this because they get positive points for good behavior and negative points for misbehavior (I use the app on my phone). I also reward the entire class when they are quiet during fire drills, assemblies, walking in the hallways, etc. When students volunteer to read their personal writing aloud, I also give points. Eventually I plan to have a classroom party for those who have 20 points or above or something similar. This way, students don't get discouraged, thinking they can never win a prize.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Goal Setting Link Up with I {Heart} Recess!

I {Heart} Recess

I'm linking up with I {Heart} Recess for the Goals: Back To School Edition Linky!

Personal: Working out every day after school is something I need to do in order to maintain energy in the evenings. I've found that if I just go straight home, I'm too tired to do anything, but if I work out after school (yoga, gym, etc.), I am full of energy when i get home.

Organization I ordered a date stamp this year, and so far I have been using it daily. It is helping me to keep track of who turned what in on which day. I teach a total of 10 classes (7 different plans), so my world is crazy when it comes to students turning in papers. In order to combat this issue, I am planning to use Edmodo for the majority of writing assignments, and then I have a stack of trays labeled by class for the loose day-to-day papers. Once students turn in physical papers, I will stamp them, add a paperclip, and then return them to the basket until I get a chance to grade and add them to the gradebook. Once I do, I will add a checkmark and then transfer them either to the corresponding outgoing basket to wait to be returned to the student or to the student's working writing folder. At the end of each quarter, our students sort through these folders and decide what they want to keep in there. At the end of the school year, they choose one narrative, one informational, and one argumentative piece, as well as a writing to learn and writing to demonstrate learning example (these pieces can come from any class). These pieces are then recorded on a cover sheet and then sent to the next year's teacher.

Planning:  My goal is to have my lessons planned for all classes at least two weeks ahead of time, complete with handouts, electronic files, etc. That way I can spend my planning period handling other needed responsibilities.

Professional:  I recently started a low-residency creative writing MFA program, so I have a lot to juggle right now. I want to stay on top of my reading and packet deadlines for my fall and spring tutorials so that I can advance in the program and build my own writing skills and knowledge.

Students:  I want my students to take responsibility for their learning and for their moral character development. I work to encourage my students to be independent and consciousness  If I can enrich their lives by helping them to become more empathetic, well-rounded, and savvy, all of the time I've spent will be worth it.

Motto: Being a tool through which his/her students learn with excitement is the true responsibility of a teacher.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Goals Before TTC

I am struggling. Struggling to find the perfect spot for me between career, marriage, and motherhood. I know I'm not the first woman to be concerned with losing her identity when thinking about getting pregnant. I know I'm not the only working woman who wants to be able to spend as much time as possible with her eventual baby. I know all of these things, but that doesn't make my personal journey any less authentic or important. 

It was most recently triggered by a TEDtalk. If you've never heard a TEDtalk, stop reading my blog and visit their website NOW. It will change your life. Anyway, in the quest to cut TV watching--more specifically streaming certain shows (namely it alternates between Grey's Anatomy, True Blood, The Walking Dead, Army Wives, Orange is the New Black, whichever is currently running)--out of my life I am trying to find a healthier habit to transfer to while I eat lunch/dinner when I'm by myself at home. I tried reading, but I feel like my meal is a time when I need to veg-out for some reason, so I needed something educational to replace the mind-numbing mess of drama shows. Enter TEDtalks.

After listening to an amazing talk by Brene Brown on Vulnerability, one I had heard to before and loved just as much the second time, I followed a link to one by Larry Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career, which was actually not that good, BUT he did mention Steve Job's Stanford Commencement Speech, which I amazingly hadn't seen yet. It was impressive (as everyone else online in the 21st century already knows). That got me interested in his personal life and more specifically his wife and what she was doing after his passing. Laurene Powell Jobs is a pretty powerful woman. In fact, she is on Forbes 2013 The World's 100 Women Who are Redefining Power. As is Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Reading about her got me intrigued with her life and that led me to her book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, which led me to Jenny Kuhle's blog and her post about being a working woman who left the workforce after having babies, not a new situation, but she really struggles with the same issue that I am about to face--what am I to do once I have a baby? 

Whether or not to remain at my job is not a question. I love teaching and it is a passion for me that is part of what makes me who I am. I've already decided that I will continue teaching, that I will continue graduate school, and that I will juggle to make it all work. However, that doesn't mean it will be easy and that doesn't mean that I won't feel pulled either to my job or to my child or to both simultaneously.

In order to help calm my fears about the whole baby idea, I've set a few goals in different areas of my life to accomplish this semester (this is not to say that we are going to TTC after December, this is just my first step towards being more okay with where I am before even thinking more about being a mom (Pinterest has pushed me too far along on that thought-train!)

Hopefully my goal sheet will help someone else trying to plan what to do before trying to conceive or what to do in the months before getting pregnant.

Preparing for back to school

I am about to start my 2nd full year (my 3rd school year, since I started in Jan. 2012), and I am nervous as always, but also extremely excited for the new changes to come. 

Below you can see a few of the projects I've been working on to spruce up my classroom.

We had a few throw pillows from our old comforter set that were a bit mishapen and not in our color scheme any longer, so I decided to transform them into a few pillows for the reading nook in my classroom. I am really in love with the hexagonal one and think I will try that again next time I need a new pillow.

I didn't have any hall passes last year, but definitely needed them. Not wanting to just purchase an ugly, generic wooden block pass, I decided to search Pinterest for an idea. I found a few pins that used clothespins as passes, which I thought was a great idea, except that my students would forget they had clipped it on them and walk out for the day with my pass still hanging on. To solve that problem, I found these cute blank name tags at Michaels and put a few old business cards in between two to give the pass some substance, then covered them in clear sellotape, punched a whole in the corner and threaded through some twin. I think I might die the clothes pins to make them stick out a bit more, but otherwise, I'm really happy with them. (I blocked out my name to post them online, but you can see that I included the room number so that if they are lost, they can find their owner again.)

I've also been working on streamlining my schedule and finding time to accomplish some grading and planning during the school day without so many interruptions. This is what I have so far:

I know, my schedule is a bit crazy, but you can see I've highlighted the times I can work with in yellow. I am really making an effort to only check email twice a day, but during each of those times, I plan to thoroughly sort and reply to emails rather than simply glance them over (which I've found is a huge time-waster as you end up having to look at the same emails several times over).

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Perfect Paragraph Hamburger Method

During my student teaching experience, the teacher I was interning with had a wonderful strategy to help her 9th grade Pre-AP students remember what went into a well-developed paragraph. She called it the perfect paragraph and used a hamburger as the visual.

When I finally had my own classroom, even though I was teaching 6th grade, I knew I wanted to implement this strategy. I developed a visual that embodied her idea, and my students reference this each time we approach a writing project. We use it for informational and argumentative writing and it fits the common core standards beautifully. The hardest part for students is the explanation, but I always give them the PB&J analogy (one my science teacher from elementary school taught us). She used it in connection with procedure. She said that you need to pretend like you are telling an alien how to make a PB&J sandwich. You couldn't just say, "Put the jam on the bread" because they might just take the jar of jam and place it on top of the loaf of bread. You have to walk them through the steps. "First, untwist the tie on the bread, then..." I explain to my students that explanation is similar to that. You think we understand the evidence without you needing to explain it, but pretend your reader is an alien in that moment. You have to explain why that evidence helps to prove your statement or your main point. 

I hope you fellow teachers out there will find use out of this. Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers site to download a free .doc file.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

CHAMPS Classroom Management Strategy

CHAMPS is a strategy I really want to start to use regularly. I have the poster printed out from the teacher resource center across the room from my desk with the intention that I'll see it when I address the class, but I don't always follow through on it. One of my goals this year is to use it regularly to address the class before an activity. You basically walk the class through each step before each activity so that they always know the expectations.

For example: 
"During this partner activity, I expect there to no noise above whispering. If you need help, you can ask your partner or raise your hand. We will be..... You are allowed to move around the room to accomplish your task, but please ask permission if your project involves you leaving the room. I will know you are participating when I see you working side by side with your partner. We will switch partners when the timer goes off."

I've found with any age group I've taught (Kindergarden, 4th-9th grade, Juniors) that you can never repeat yourself too many times and you can never expect kids to understand something you haven't expressively told them. It's better to over teach or over model than to have students confused and not following directions.