Okay, y’all, I’m attempting my first link-up here, so in anticipation I request your patience. =) I’m linking up with Blog Hoppin for their Teacher Week soiree.
Today’s theme is all about taming the wild. Or classroom management. Now, I want to be 100% real with you–if I did not have an excellent classroom management system I wouldn’t even make it through the first day. I absolutely LOVE my school, but it can definitely be a little rough around the edges at times. So every summer I spend a fair amount of time thinking about how I will manage the behavior of my incoming little love nuggets.
The first 2 years I taught I did more a token economy system, where kids were earning classroom dollars and then cashing them in for prizes worth different amounts. I liked it, and it was okay, but the first year I was in first grade I really didn’t love it. So I figured why stick with something I don’t love. Last year I tried something brand new–well, not really brand new, but brand new to me. The clip chart. Y’all. I canNOT tell you how much I LOVE a good clip chart. And if we’re being totally honest, I was a big time clip chart doubter. I thought there was no way it would ever work, and it was such a crazy idea, and it would never manage the behavior in my classroom. But seriously. I. LOVE. IT. It’s one of the best classroom decisions I’ve ever made. (If the idea of a clip chart is new to you, you can read about it here. Or you can just google “clip chart” and do your own research.)
Here’s why I love the clip chart: it moves the responsibility of tracking behavior from me to my kids. (This is also why I love the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today?) The basic tenet is that good/positive actions clip you up, and negative actions clip you down. I definitely add extra incentives into my clip chart, like class-wide bonuses if no one has their clip below the morning starting point–Ready to Learn. I also clip my kids “off the chart” if they’re having a great day. “Off the chart” means that you were on the top chunk of the chart, and you were asked to clip up again. Those students get their clips, give them to me, and I wear them on my lanyard for the rest of the day. If students continue to clip up even after they are off the chart they get stars on their clip and when their clip is full of stars I paint it after school. It starts red, and they can move through every color of the rainbow until they get the coveted (and extremely rare) rainbow glitter clip. The first time someone gets a red clip it’s a huge deal! They all marvel about it when they come in and see it on the clip chart in the morning. It’s generally a pretty adorable moment.
In addition to the clip chart, I use LOTS of really specific positive praise for small groups, whole group, and individual students. I always joke with the hubs that he probably hates the first 6 weeks of school because I come home and give him the same type of praise that I give my students–“Wow, honey. It was so helpful of you to empty the dishwasher. I really appreciate that you did that and now I don’t have to.” Oops. We also start a compliment chain every year to help with hallway/out of the classroom behavior. The way the compliment chain works is that every time another adult in the building gives the class a compliment we get to add a link to the chain. When the chain touches the floor we get to have a compliment party. The compliment party is a HUGE deal. You can really make it whatever you want; last year, I asked my kids what they wanted and they wanted to paint, have a dance party, make posters to hang in the hallway so other kids could get compliments, too, and have milk and cookies with the principal and AP. Are you kidding?! Done and done.
Just as I have really specific procedures in place for praising positive behavior, I also am very clear with my students about potential negative consequences that could arise from their choices. I always tell my students that I can only give them good ideas; they will ultimately make their own decisions. You’re the boss of you, if what I tell them all the time. And frequently what I ask them when we’re having a conversation and they say that someone else told them to do something. As soon as they say that I always say “who’s the boss of you?” The first consequence, obviously, is for students to clip down. If they’ve already clipped down and they’re still acting out then I’ll ask them to sit in our naughty seat. This is a seat that’s generally away from the rest of the class. They’re usually going to be there 6-8 minutes. After that, I’m either going to have a quick conversation with them and invite them back to class, or if they’re still being disruptive I’m going to ask them to either take a few books or their work with them and go to another classroom, again for probably 6-10 minutes.
I blogged earlier this week about Responsive Classroom, and one aspect of RC is logical consequences. Basically, logical consequences means that you’re matching the consequence to the action. So if a kid colors on the table you’re going to have them clean up the table, not miss recess. I do like the idea of logical consequences, but I’ll be honest: it’s one of the RC structures that I have the hardest time with because I feel like sometimes there isn’t necessarily a logical consequence.
I hope I haven’t bored y’all to tears. If you’re still with me I’ll end with this: I think the bottom line of any classroom management system is creating a community where students know that you value them and you’ll listen to them. If kids know you care they’ll do almost anything for you.