Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Classroom Management Part Three: The Fairness Cup

Over the past few posts, I've been sharing my classroom management tools and tips with you. Nothing remarkable or earth-shattering. but ideas straight from the classroom, teacher-approved for immediate implementation.

The same is no different for today's post. You may have seen something like it before. Maybe not. It's something I use constantly in my classroom. I couldn't teach without it. In fact, I have multiple of them all around my classroom.

It's my Fairness Cup. A magical little tool that takes the argument and decisiveness out of choosing students for tasks (certain tasks, let's be honest) and makes it "fair." Everyone has the same opportunity to be chosen for every single activity, every single time. There's no more arguing, no more "Why am I always last!" or other outbursts. In fact, now my students actually promote the use of it! They know everyone has equal opportunity to be chosen, and if they aren't, they're okay with it because they know it was completely fair. It's a magnificent thing! It also takes the guesswork out of who I have called on and who I haven't throughout the course of the day. It does the thinking for me - and that is just fabulous!

It's so simple, and you probably have everything you need laying around to make one (or two!) of your own.

Here's what one of mine looks like.


I used a mini bucket I had in my classroom and some clothespins. I wrote my students' names and numbers on them, and pull them out one at a time when I need to call on students. After I pull a clip, I clip it to the rim of the bucket so I don't have to put it back in and won't pull it out again. I can also then pull them off the rim and put them back in one at a time to choose after I have pulled all of the names out. It keeps them constantly mixed up and truly "fair" in selection!

I also have a pencil jar from Target with large wooden tongue depressors that have my students' names on each end. I have the two fairness cups located in different places in the room so there is always one nearby when I need!

So - that's it! 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Classroom Management Part Two: Managing Students with OCD

I said in my previous post that I do not claim to be a classroom management expert. I also do not claim to be anywhere near an expert on OCD, children with OCD, or anything in any realm of any of those things.

I am a teacher. I am teachable. I like to learn and become the best I can possibly be! So, this year, when I presented with a new student and new challenges to face, I knew I would need to learn and adapt even more. I was able to tell right away that this student had some compulsive, almost anxiety-related behaviors, and our intervention specialist who comes in my room a few mornings a week noticed them as well.

They typically didn't (and still don't) interfere with our learning throughout the day, but they were starting to become a bit overwhelming for me to deal with on top of other behaviors and typical day to day learning activities.

Post Your Daily Schedule

One of the biggest things that would happen constantly throughout the day would be questions about our schedule. "What time is snack?".... "How much longer until lunch?" .... "What are we doing after this?" were questions I heard multiple times a day, every day at the beginning of the school year. He would get out of his seat and come ask me these things whenever he wanted to know the answers as soon as he thought of them, no matter what were doing. It was becoming a lot to handle, as I said before, so I now make sure to post our classroom schedule every single day.

It's a lot easier said than done, as my schedule changes almost daily with individual tutoring pull-outs, a teacher who joins us three afternoons a week, and a special that disrupts two of our days. I have A LOT of these schedule cards (and even have to make a few new ones within the week!) and I have to change it every morning, but it has been SO worth it. The questions about what we are doing next and when a specific activity happens no longer occur. He can look at our posted schedule, look at the clock, and know when every thing will be happening. With a constantly changing schedule, it also helps keep ME on track, especially for all of the students being pulled out every day.

o-h so blessed

The schedule cards I use are from Amy Groesbeck on TpT. They are completely editable and she tells you in the pack what fonts she used for each part. I printed them at 50% onto cardstock so they were small enough to fit into this pocket chart. She has them sized for a half-sheet of paper. I just made the schedule headers to mimic them and created the clocks using clip art from Ashley Hughes. I cut and laminated them all and keep them in a little paper pocket on the wall next to it so they don't get lost!

o-h so blessed
The orange pocket chart is from the Target Dollar Spot. I was so excited when I saw it, I bought the last 4 they had. Orange is my favorite color (if you can't tell!) and is one of my main classroom colors. I HAD to have them!

o-h so blessed

Board Reminders

Another organizational tip that has helped manage his anxiety and compulsion is this student is posting labels all throughout the classroom, especially at the board. Here's what my whiteboard looks like...

o-h so blessed

o-h so blessed

Whenever my students need to take out items for specific activities or subjects, I made these cards for the board. I put a check mark next to them as I tell them what to get out, and it prevents the "What do I need!?" question that ALL students ask repeatedly! I write on or under the "workbook" and "notebook" cards for the specific subject they need, such as Science, Language, or Math. Those have been the MOST helpful, since some students take out one instead of the other (we use a lot of interactive notebooks!)

I also get asked "What can I do now?" A LOT. Still. It's frustrating. 

But I have these "All done? Pick one?" choice cards posted in the front of the room. My students can choose from any of these activities after they finish an activity or independent work before our next part of the day. Slowly they are learning that these are choices they can ALWAYS make WITHOUT ASKING, but we are getting there. My student with obsessive compulsive issues understands this very well. My students who struggle are my rule-following people-pleasers. They want to make sure they are always doing what they are supposed to, so they constantly ask to make sure they don't get in trouble. I completely understand that. I am the same way.

o-h so blessed

If you like the board signs I made above, you can download them HERE FOR FREE!

Stay Consistent

This is a difficult thing to do sometimes (well, maybe not for you, but for me it is!) When you tell your student who has an obsessive-compulsive personality, they will remember it. I promise. They won't forget. So be consistent in what you say. I have noticed that my student can have a difficult time adjusting to change, so I make sure that routines are consistent because they are important. My overall behavior management system stays the same all year. I pass out tickets for positive behavior choices. If I want to change it up or encourage better overall behavior as a class, I make them additional to our current system. They still earn tickets individually, but I also add in a whole class reward or small group rewards that they can earn. This excites and engages him, without the anxiety of change to overall routine.

If something will change, I make sure to tell him one-on-one so he knows. I don't make it a big deal. I just explain what is going to be different and why, and make sure to answer any questions he may have. Then. the change isn't sprung on him during the day and he is prepared for it in advance.

I also have to stay consistent in my prep. He expects there to be VIP students chosen every day (more about that coming soon). He'll come in the classroom when he unpacks in the morning and look to see if I chose VIPs already. If I haven't, he'll ask. "No VIPs today?" (He says it like "vip" as a word, rather then the three letters - it's adorable!) or "Will there be VIPs today?" So, I have to be consistent, or he'll remind me. Being consistent in MY daily routine helps keep me on task and helps prevent those questions and anxieties for him.

Remove Distractions

My student with these tendencies this year loves to read. I mean absolutely LOVES to read. So much so that it becomes an obsession. He would read all day long if I let him. (Great problem to have, right!?) Well, not really. With my Daily 5 set up, my students have personal book bins at their seats with them and I encourage them to always be full of high-interest books. For this little boy, that can be a problem because he won't stop reading. In the middle of a math lesson, he'll have a book out and be completely engrossed in it.

One day, genius struck, and I realized that I didn't need to take away the books. I never want to discourage a student from reading! But I did need to take away the distraction of the books. So, he still has a book bin, he just doesn't keep it next to him at all times. Instead, his bin is kept across the room on the chair of our writing center. When he finishes all of his work, he may then go get his book bin to read. It has helped him pay attention to lessons MUCH better now. He hasn't needed reminded of this either, and always remembers the rule (a plus to his obsessive tendencies). I do have to remind him to clean up when we are finished reading during Read to Self time, but I don't think that will change. But the difference of asking him to stop reading during our lessons has been tremendous in the past two months with this one small change!

I hope you found some helpful tips and tools for managing students with OCD and obsessive tendencies. As I mentioned before, I am no expert. But having a student in my classroom with some of these tendencies, I have discovered a few things to have helped me to manage the day-to-day routines of our classroom, and save a little bit of my sanity along the way! I hope they can be a help for you, too, now and/or in the future!