Thursday, August 24, 2017

Classroom Management & Discipline Series - First Day of School Part 1

I'm back in my favorite chair up north after 40 plus hours working in my classroom over the last week or so.  Everything there is just about done, so now I'm starting to work on the other list of to-do's that have to happen before the first day of school.  One task on that list is creating a seating chart, which is an important part of today's Classroom Management & Discipline post about the first day of school.

I believe that it's important to set the tone of your classroom from the moment the students walk in the door on the first day of  school.  That is why I have a routine that I follow each and every year.  First of all, I greet everyone at the door and tell them to find their seat and look at the board for further directions.  I am a creature of habit, and my students need to learn the habits that will help them be successful in my classroom this year.  One of the first things they will need to do in the next 179 days of school is look for directions on the board as we start our day.   My morning message will welcome them to my classroom and then direct them to today's warm up which has two tasks.  One is to read a letter from a student who was in my room last year.  At the end of every school year, I have my students write a letter to next year's students.  You can grab this freebie in my TPT Store.  

After they read the letter from one of last year's students, I have them fill in a letter of their own to me about how they are feeling on this first day of school.  This is another freebie in my TPT Store.  

It's important for me to get my students working on something right away as this sets another precedent for the year.  As my students are finding their seats, putting away their school supplies, and starting on their warm up, I walk around the room and take lunch count.  This is a chance to once again put names with faces after I greeted them at the door and an additional opportunity to set the tone of our classroom.  For my classroom that means this is a quiet working environment.  So, each interaction I have with them this morning is done in a quiet voice.  Unless I am addressing the whole class, I always use a quiet voice in my classroom.  When I talk to students individually, I do not want all of the students in the classroom to hear, and I do not want interactions that I have with individuals or small groups to be a distraction to the rest of the class.  Likewise, I expect my students to learn how to talk quietly so as not to disturb the work of others.  

I believe a seating chart is also vital to setting the tone of my classroom.  Though there will be times that students will have the freedom to choose where they want to sit, the majority of the time I will make that choice.  It is my responsibility to be the instructional leader of the classroom and that means figuring out the best place for each child to learn.  Fortunately, I am given some basic information about each of my students that I can use to make a seating chart.  If I didn't have any information about my students other than their names, I would do a boy, girl, boy seating chart and then use my observations of the students from the first couple days of school to create a new one.  

In my school, the 4th grade teachers fill out a pink (girls) or blue (boys) card on each student.  The card gives me basic information such as their academic performance (marked high, average, low), citizenship (marked high, average, low), reading level, and whether they get any kind of special services.  This information helps me create my first seating chart.  I have my desks arranged in six groups, so I start with students who were marked low in citizenship and put one in each group.  It gets trickier the years that I have more than six kiddos marked low!  Then I go to my students marked high in citizenship and put at least one of those in each group.  Woe is me if I don't have six!  Then I fill in the rest of the spots with kids who were marked average in citizenship.  

Once I know which kids are grouped together, then it's time to figure out where exactly they will sit in the classroom.  Classroom management 101 is all about proximity, so my students who may struggle the most when it comes to making good choices with their behavior need to be seated the closest to my teaching station.  This is why I find it best to have a table rather than a typical desk right next to my cart that contains my teaching computer and document camera.  If I'm teaching the class, working with an individual or small group, or sitting at my desk, it's all in this same location with my behaviorally challenged students nearby.  It wouldn't make sense to seat a student who struggles with behavior near my desk and then go to the back of the room to work with a group of students at a table.  

So, I place my students with the potential for the most behavior issues in a desk that faces me close to my teacher area.  It is pointless to put them in a group near me, if their back is to me.  I must be able to see their face, and they must be able to see mine.  

In the picture above, you can see the group that is closest to my teaching station.  I would place a student who may make bad choices in the desk with the arrow.  This desk is closest to me if I'm standing at my cart or sitting on my stool.  If I'm sitting in my chair at my table, I can clearly see their face, and he/she can see mine.  I would try to put students with high citizenship or at least average next to and directly across from him/her.

This next group is tricky, and if my class size is a little smaller, I don't put any students where the two red arrows are.  

If I'm at my teaching station, their backs are to me, and if I'm sitting at my table, I really can't see them at all.  If I have no choice but to use those desks, I put two of my most responsible students in those seats.  Sometimes I resort to creating two front facing rows of three instead of the group of six.  The white arrow is pointing to the spot where I would put a student who needs proximity to me as once again I am able to see their face from my teaching station.  

In the groups that are further away from me, I put my behaviorally challenged students in the front facing row on the end closest to me.  Those are the seats where I will most easily be able to see their face.

I try to only put very responsible students in the desks that have their backs to the board, as they are most likely to turn around to pay attention.  

When it comes to assigning seats, you have to be flexible.  Where you have placed your students can make or break your learning environment.  I change where my students sit based on how things are going from day to day.  If kids are doing very well and acting responsibly, I may leave everyone in the same spot for weeks.  If a particular student is struggling, I may move them every couple days until I find the spot that works.  

I hope this helps you figure out the seating arrangement that works best for your kids!  Check out the other blog posts in the Classroom Management & Discipline series below:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Show & Tell Tuesday - Back to School Time!

Show & Tell Tuesday is here just in time for my first week getting in back to school mode!

This has been my happy place for most of the summer!  I will miss my long summer days spent on the lake but look forward to the fall weekends!

Jake's fraternity had their annual parent's day this past weekend which includes a fundraising auction for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.  After all the baskets were auctioned off, they auctioned off throwing pies at your favorite Delt.  Jake was certainly a good sport, and Barnaby was there to help get him cleaned off!

I have just barely begun to get ready for back to school.  My first little project was an idea I saw on Fifth in the Middle.  I love this name stick holder which you make with two Crystal Light containers!  Once you pull a stick, you can put it into the slot on the other side so you know which ones haven't been pulled yet.  You can read all about how to make one here.  

Use empty Crystal Light containers to create a name stick holder.

Here's my version...

I can't wait to use it!

 Now here's what you need to know to link up and share your Show & Tells!

Linky Information:

1. This is a monthly linky.  The idea is to “Show” up to four pictures of things from school, home, etc. and “Tell” us all about them.  Created the most amazing bulletin board ever?  Show & Tell us about it!  Have the best seats at a Red Wings game, right next to the bench?  Show & Tell us about it!  Play the best game at a party with your class?  Have a pet that just got the worst haircut ever?  Show & Tell us about it!  Only have one thing to Show & Tell about?  Not a problem! 

2. Product promotion will be limited to one and only if you are introducing a brand new product or sharing pictures of how you just used a product in your classroom.  The focus should be on sharing, not pushing things to sell. 

3. Please choose one of your Show & Tell pictures as your image for the thumbnail and type your blog name to go below the picture. 

4.  Use the main Show & Tell Tuesday button and link back to my post.  Use the numbered Show & Tell buttons in your post to share your pictures.

5. Please leave comments on at least three other posts, including the ones before and after yours.  It's always nice to get feedback from your blogging buddies! 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Classroom Management & Discipline Series - Setting Up Your Classroom

August is really underway, no matter how much we wish July could linger.  Back to school season is upon us, and it's time to switch gears and get ready.  Some of you may be about to embark on your first teaching experience, and many of you, like me, have goals for improving upon yourself as a teacher for the upcoming school year.  This is one of the things I like most about my job.  There is a clear beginning and end to each year, with time in between for me to reflect and plan how to make things better for my next group of kids.

Over the last twenty-six summers, I have spent time thinking about how to modify and improve every aspect of my craft.  What's a better use of my classroom space?  What bulletin boards will be most useful for my students?  (And stay up the longest!)  How could I teach this subject in a way that would be more interesting to my students?  How could I involve parents more?  How could I manage discipline more effectively?  This last question is so important.  Classroom management is key to a quality learning environment.  Students are going to have a difficult time learning if the classroom is out of control, and you are going to be stressed out every morning when you walk through your classroom door to face the day.

Whether you are about to begin your first year of teaching and are unsure about how to set up a classroom when it comes to discipline or if you are a returning teacher who feels that this might be an area in which you could improve, I hope to give you some strategies that will strengthen your classroom management in this blog series about classroom management and discipline.

If you are like me, the first thing you have to do when you return to school is prepare the physical space of your classroom.  You may not realize it, but the layout of your classroom and arrangement of furniture should be done in a manner to promote positive behavior.

The first thing you should decide is which wall will be considered the front of the classroom.  You may not have a choice, if you just have one marker board or chalkboard.  This is a picture of my classroom, and the pink arrow is pointing to the marker board which is the front of my room.

Once you have identified the front of the classroom, you should have your desk or table situated so that your back is to the front of the classroom.  In other words, you are facing the back of the classroom.  The picture above is taken from my chair, showing the "Mrs. Rye's eye view".  Below you can see my work space from the students' point of view...

I have a horseshoe table with five stools tucked behind the curtain for when I want to work with students.  All of my teaching materials are on shelves behind my desk.  You want your desk or work station placed at the front of the classroom so that your facing your class when you are sitting at your desk.  In the past I have had a table in the back of my classroom where I worked with students.  But the old saying is so true...out of sight, out of mind!  It makes a huge difference if your students see your face, especially if you have perfected your teacher look!  Your students will be more likely to be off task and not working if they can't see you.  

Also, if I am working with only one student, then I have them sit next to me on my side of the table.  That way they are not blocking my view of the class or any student's view of me.  While I'm working with that student, my eyes periodically sweep the room.  If I see someone off task, I keep coming back to them with my eyes until they look up and see me.  I give them my raised eyebrow "get back to work" look and that's usually all it takes.  You may be wondering, what if they never look at me?  Well, often times when students are doing something they know they aren't supposed to be, they do look at you to see if you are looking at them.  They will become accustomed to the fact that you are always aware of the whole classroom, not just the student(s) working with you.  

Once I have identified where my work area will be, then I can arrange my student desks.  The most important factor when placing student desks is to minimize the number of students who would have their back to the front of the room where the marker board or chalkboard is.  This could be accomplished easily by putting the entire class in front facing rows, and though I sometimes end up there by necessity, I don't typically start my year with that arrangement.  Besides the fact that it takes up more room and the rows inch forward all day, my goal is to have the students working with partners and in small groups.  

I arrange my desks in groups of six.  I do this for a couple of reasons.  I want everyone to have a partner, and my file box shelves each have six spots.  (Click here for information about the file box shelves.)  When putting the group together, I move the back two desks (where the arrows are pointing) so that they are facing the front of the class.  The other two pairs, who are facing each other, only have to turn to the side to look at the board.  I think groups of four are great as well.  Each student has a partner, and the whole group can also work together.  With a group of four, I place them facing each other, so they only have to turn to the side to look at the board.  If I turned the group with a pair facing the board straight on, then I would have two students with their backs to the board.  

Often times, we do not have as much space in our classrooms as we would like.  One way to conserve space is to push desks right up against a wall.  

One problem with doing this is that two of the rows (see arrows) now have their backs completely to the board.  Worse yet, I can't see their faces, and they can't see mine if I'm sitting at my desk.  I still put a couple groups against a wall, but then I have to be very careful about who I seat in those two rows.  I will discuss seating charts in another post in this series.  

Once my groups are all arranged, I can design my favorite part of the room, the library!  When configuring your library, it's not just about where to house your books.  Our classroom library is the much coveted comfy reading area!  So, I have to do what I can to ensure that students will actually read in the reading area instead of talk.  How do you do that?  It comes down once again to being seen.  If your reading area has places where a student can hide and not be seen, then sometimes kids will try to take advantage of that to do things other than read.  So, when designing your library, put all tall shelves on the outside perimeter (in the back or on the right or left side).  

I also place chairs on one of these three sides.

I put nothing or only very low items on the front perimeter, the side that is closest to the front of the room and my desk.  The reason is that you want to be able to see everyone who is reading on the carpet.  If they know you can see them, they are more likely to do what they are supposed to do.  Sometimes a student will be laying on the floor, and I can't see their face.  In that case, I make sure to check on them as I'm walking around the room to confer with students, and I also take note when other individuals in the reading area keep looking in their direction.  That is a sign that they are not reading.  

Taking the extra time to arrange your room with discipline in mind will pay off dividends when those students arrive!  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Back to School Sale and Giveaway!

It's time to start wrapping my head around the idea of going back to school!  The first thing I'm going to do is grab some of the things on my wishlist during the side wide Back to School Sale!

Everything in my store is on sale as well!  Already discounted bundles are an extra 10% off, and everything else is 20% off!  Plus, don't forget to use the promo code BTS2017 to get the extra 5% off courtesy of TPT.  Click here to head to my store.

I was also lucky enough to win a $10 TPT gift card that I can now pass along to one of you!  Enter below, and a winner will be chosen at midnight on August 2nd.  I'll send it your way so you have time to spend it on Wednesday.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway