Saturday, March 26, 2016

Thinking Outside the Box with Classroom Management!


Teaching encompasses a lot of different and important pieces in order for a teacher to be or have success.  They need just the right lesson, tools for the lesson, strategy, visuals, oh - and classroom management.  The one piece that could take any well thought out and strong lesson and rip it to shreds is having no management of the kids.  So what do you do?  Yes, the clip up/down charts and Class Dojo (which is what I use) are fantastic and they do work great... for a while.  But have you ever noticed that they wear off after a few months of so?   It's like a new toy that loses its shine.  There's no motivation behind it anymore.  That's because that one tool cannot be the one and only thing that you rely on when it comes to keeping you students interested in wanting to 'be managed'.  Intrinsic motivation isn't always something our little ones come to us with, therefore we have to give them that motivation.



Having the clip chart and Dojo can be great for an overall record keeping tool for management and can work but it cannot be the ONLY thing you rely on for the entire year.  Believe me...  it WILL lose it's charm.  The key to managing your classroom is having a 'bag of tricks' per-say to pull out.  Think of it like a 'boxing ring'.  You're in the ring with your students.  You need to have the right moves, tricks, and be ready to swing at a moments notice.  Follow these few tips to help!

1.    Put your gloves on!  No, that doesn't mean I want you to fight with your student.  It simply means to make sure you have the right gear.  What tools will you use?  We've already discussed how using one overall tool won't be affective.  You have to keep it new and fresh for them to keep their interest.  Keep a 'bag of tricks' handy to keep things upbeat and fresh in the classroom.  Here's what I use!


I literally keep a 'bag of tricks' cards on my desk at all time.  Each of these cards has an easy but extremely motivating idea on them to keep the students engaged and interested throughout the day or lesson.  The activities on them are mostly goal oriented and help those students who lack that intrinsic motivation.  If you'd like to learn about them, check them out HERE!

2.  Get in the ring!  You have your tools ready to go, how step into the ring with your students.  This means commit and don't back down.  There's never an okay time in education to let your feet come off that ground - keep them planted firmly.  You've heard the phrase 'give them an inch' right?  I'm pretty sure a teacher coined that phrase!  Stick to your guns, rules, procedures and don't ever take no for an answer.  If that means you're still practicing how to line up quietly in April (like I am this year) then do it!  Don't let that guard down!

3.  Give them the golden belt!  This is all about rewarding your students.  They work so hard day in and day out and need something to show for it.  All of my 'bag of tricks' cards are all working towards some type of 'prize' but that prize doesn't have to be tangible.   It can be something very easy, fun, and small.  I know my class loves Karaoke!  (YouTube has great kid friendly Karaoke videos to use!)  Here's a great list of free rewards from Teaching in the Fast Lane!


4.     Know when to go for the TKO!  Again, not asking you to hit your students!!!  This just means to pick your battles.  Don't 'die on every hill'.  You can settle situations and arguments easily without having to make a show out of everything.  Just do small 'jabs' until you truly need the TKO.  You'll know when it's time.  

5.    Fly like a butterfly, stink like a bee.  What I mean is to stay positive.  This is probably the part of the job that gets me down the most.  Happy classroom = happy teacher.  If you do all of the above on the list then you'll be able to accomplish this tip easily.  When you find yourself getting frustrated then it's time to reevaluate your tools and see what you need to switch up.   A few new tools and a new outlook on things just might help do the trick.  

After everything said so far, the best that you can do, is do what works for you.  Don't worry about what the teacher next door is doing or what you learned or did 5 years ago.   Go with your gut, that's your best instinct you have.


As always, let me know if you have any questions!  I'm happy to help!




Sunday, March 20, 2016

Cooperative Learning with Placemat Consensus!

     Teachers always have lots of reasons to get that pain in the pit of our stomachs...  Testing season, report card deadlines, group work...  Oh GROUP WORK!  Can you hear the tattling now!?  Working together in groups can be the most rewarding experiences in many lessons but also can be some of the most challenging.  There are so many personalities to consider and so many 'forest fires' to prevent before the lesson even begins!  So is it worth it!?  Absolutely!!

     My biggest piece of advice for any teacher asking about group work:  Accountability!  Make sure in some way each and every student is being held accountable for the work he or she has been given.  This way not just one-two students are doing the work, all voices are being heard, and no one is wasting time! (hopefully!!)



Using a placemat consensus can be a very easy way to do just that!  Haven't heard of them?  No biggie!  They are very easy to use and to make.  Picture this:  A square or circle in the middle of a large piece of paper with lines coming out of the middle sectioning the paper into a certain number of sections (one for each student).  So if you have groups of four, you'll want four lines to create those sections, and so on.  Here are just some google images I found online of basic placemat consensuses.



Nothing to them right!?  The power is what you DO with them.  There are SO many ways to use a placemat consensus in all subject areas, their possibilities are truly endless!  Here's how they work:


Using a Placemat Consensus

     Placemat consensus's are used to help guide students to a common understanding.  Formally, they are used by the teacher presenting a question and each child solving or writing their answer in their section of the placemat.  Then together they compare and discuss each answer and formulate what they think would be the best answer taking someone from everyone's original answer.  

Here are some other fun ways to use a placemat consensus: (freebie at the end!)

  1. Place a math word problem in the middle and have each student solve - compare and vote on the winning answer.
  2. Giving each student a section of a book/text to read, write a quick summary of their section and then together write an overall summary of the book/text.
  3.  Place a story/short text in the middle along with questions at the bottom.  Assign each student with a question, have them answer and then share.
  4. Place a dollar/coin amount in the middle and have the students use coins or draw coins to make different amounts of the same total - CHALLENGE - have one person go at a time and no one can repeat the answers before them!
  5. Write a number in the middle and have each person given an operation and create an equation where the number in the middle is the answer.  (ex:  30     15+ 15, 10 x 3, 30/1, 50 - 20)
  6. Place a short text and give each person a part of speech to search for:  have them record as many as they could find and then share out and discuss.  
  7. **Pictured Below**  Place a short text in the middle and give each student a specific concept to analyze and answer.  Have multiple texts to allow the students to rotate throughout the lesson so each child gets to use each section of the placemat consensus.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         





If you have other ideas on how to use a placemat consensus, I'd love to hear all about it!  I'm always looking for ways to continue to incorporate this amazing quality tool!  

If you'd like to get started, you can download my differentiated nonfiction cards I use (pictured above) HERE!   



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