Monday, September 19, 2016

Classroom Management Part Six: Zone Time!

Do you have students, that no matter how much you reward him/her or reward everyone else but him/her, they struggle with staying in one spot? Though I didn't implement true flexible seating last year in my classroom (for reasons beyond my control) I did allow my students to option of working around the room whenever possible, and if they had to be at their desk, they could choose to stand or sit. But they had to stay in their area and stay focused the whole time they work (well, as focused as eight year olds can stay...).

One boy in particular really struggled with this. He was allllwaayyyyss wandering around the classroom, especially when I was working with other students in small groups. It drove me bonkers. No matter what I tried, it didn't improve. So, I dealt with it as best I could.

Later in the year, his mom had him meet with a variety of doctors for a variety of different and heart-breaking reasons. After meeting with her, my admin, and our intervention specialist, it was found that he needed boundaries set within the classroom in order to achieve the behavior goals we were implementing for him.

I dubbed this new boundary system  "Zone Time." I set it up for the whole class, not just him. and I apologize that I slacked in taking pictures.. so I'll do my best to paint a picture of what I implemented for you so it is as clearly as I can.

We needed him to work on Zone Time in two ways... first to work on staying in his area when he was working. Due to other poor behavior choices he was making, this was always at his desk for the remainder of the year. He was no longer allowed to work around the classroom. So, since my students' desks were arranged in pods, he needed to stay within his small group area. I outlined this in two ways:
1. washi tape that I put on the floor around the group - it looked like a giant rectangle. I DON'T recommend duct's quite difficult to remove. Washi tape removes easily, and comes in a variety of different colors.
2. numbers I hung above their pods. I had 4 pods of students, so I cut out a giant 1, 2, 3, and 4 of cardstock, and hung them above the pods.

note* I used numbers, but you could also use colors, animals, let the pods choose their names, etc... whatever works for you. I liked numbers. That way, I could change where my students were sitting and always have the same four zones. Washi tape comes in a bunch of colors so you can really go crazy with colors! I also would have wanted them to match my classroom decor, and I couldn't find what I needed to make it work. So numbers it was. 

The second thing we were working on was staying within his specific working area within the zone. Again, he wasn't allowed around the classroom, so this was his desk area. I didn't always require him to stay within just his desk area. We were working on the broader goal of the group zone first, before honing in on his desk area. But, this was the end of the third grade and he was nine years old. He could fully understand what was expected of him, even if he couldn't always control it, so I pulled him aside to talk about what Zone Time meant for him specifically and when.

My goal for him was to work on staying within his specific working zone (the second, more specific goal - his desk) only when I was working with small groups. If students were told it was "Zone Time" and I was walking around observing/helping students, he could move within the zone, but if I was with small groups he was to stay at his desk. We then had a behavior chart that the intervention specialist created for use at school and home to monitor his success with this goal and he was rewarded appropriately.

So, in the picture you see at the beginning of the post, I created a sign that I hing at the front of the room on my white board. When the sign was hung (and I always announced it as well) it was "Zone Time," and students had to stay in their zone.

It worked wonders. Students still had some freedom to move around, but the visual of the zone created with the washi tape helped cut down on shenanigans from the entire class! I had a class of 18, twelve of which were boys, and half of those boys excelled in shenanigans. This was a great success.. I only wish I had thought of it at the beginning of the school year rather than the end of the year.

If you feel like you might benefit from Zone Time in your class, CLICK HERE to download the sign for free (or click the picture at the beginning of the post)! Take it, and run with it.. make it work in your classroom however you need! and again, I apologize for not having pictures. I was quite pregnant at the end of the school year, we were remodeling our house, and I was preparing to pack up my entire classroom to stay home this year... and pictures just never happened..... but it is quite a simple concept, and how you make it work could vary quite differently in your classroom for your students.. and that's okay!

Let me know how you used this concept, or if you have any questions in the comments below!

Classroom Management Part Five: Class Contributors

In my opinion, it is so important for students to learn responsibility at as early an age as possible. 

In my classroom, I make sure I help students understand what it means to be responsible and to make a commitment. To implement this, I decided to take my classroom jobs and make them more meaningful. I wanted my students to take ownership of their job and to do their very best. How did I do that? I'm glad you asked!

I took my job system and added in higher expectations. I also decided that in order to do a better job in the classroom with their responsibilities, they needed to hold the jobs for longer than a week. So, I switched to monthly job rotations. This allowed them to learn the job and develop it over the course of a month, rather than just a week. It also gave us more time in the classroom every Monday morning. Rather then randomly selecting the jobs with them each week, students were introduced and explained each job once at the beginning of the school year. Then, they applied for jobs. This was done as an early finisher activity and took little instruction time out of the day. I then took the applications home or used my planning period to assign the jobs. On the first day of the month (or first day we were in school at the beginning of the month) I would change the numbers before the students arrived. They knew that jobs would be changing, so they would find their new job and start it right away. It has saved a lot of time!

During the application process, students could use the following description cards to remind themselves the expectations of our jobs to help them apply for the best job for them. Here's a look at a few of those cards. I had them printed and laminated, and kept them on a binder ring. Students could go up and look at any time while they were applying. They also worked well for me to use to remind students of their job if they were failing to do it properly.

I kept the rings with the applications so I had everything in one convenient place. This is on the side of a tall shelf that is right next to my job posters wall. 

I noticed the year previous to implementing this new system, that students were often forgetting to do their jobs and I would have to remind them. The point of the jobs was to learn responsibility, but they also helped ME.. if I was having to remind them of their job, how was that actually helping? It wasn't! So, I decided that I needed a way to provide them of that reminder. So, I decided on using student lanyards. They would serve as a visual and tactile reminder. They could see on the bright card the job they had, and could also feel the lanyard around their neck and be reminded in that regard as well.

I also added the orange card you see. I knew I would be having 12 boys in my class and wanted them to come to school and "put on" an attitude of being ready to learn. When they put on the lanyard, they were ready to work and do their best. When they took it off for lunch and recess, they were free to have fun and relax a bit. When they returned to the classroom and put them back on, they were ready to work again.

We store them on a command hook next to the door so students can grab them as soon as they come in to the classroom and hang them up on the way out.

I added the small numbers so that we knew who the lanyard belonged to and to help students learn their numbers at the beginning of the year. 

I purchased the lanyards from Oriental Trading Company [only $6.99 a dozen] and the plastic card holders from Staples.

Then, at the beginning of the month when jobs changed, my paper passers would collect the job cards and we would redistribute them as we got settled in to the morning. It took little time and my students did it. It also helped them learn their friends jobs and they would help remind each other to complete them rather than me having to do so! They became quite helpful.

If you like this system, you can check it out on TpT here! you'll get everything you see above, with editable versions of the description cards and lanyard cards, with 25 different jobs included!

Or, if you want to just implement the application process to the job system you are already using, you can check that out here

Friday, July 22, 2016

Prepping for Baby Mo!

It's been a while since I posted last.... there has been a lot going on! As you might remember from a previous post, my husband and I are expecting our first child [any day now - AHH!] and I wanted to share a little something I have been putting together to help take care of the amazing people who will help me deliver our new little bundle of joy!

First, I wanted to make sure my Hubby was well taken care of while I was in labor, because let's be honest... who knows how long that could be and when! It could start in the middle of the night and last for hooouurrrrsss and I'd prefer he stay conscious in the delivery room! I saw some ideas on Pinterest and then headed to Target to create my own version of the "New Daddy Survival Kit." Here's what I came up with!

My Hubby LOVES sweets. So I made sure to include his favorite candy and granola bars. I also grabbed some Goldfish crackers and almonds and a bag of jerky. Not pictured (and almost already gone because he likes them SO much!) are a pack of Starbucks Mocha Frappucino drinks. I'm thinking we'll need to pick some more up on the way to the hospital for him....

Just before Father's Day, Target had some great shirts for dads, so I grabbed this shirt while it was on sale, as well as the hilarious book "Your Baby's First Word Will Be Dada" by Jimmy Fallon. He laughed out loud as he read it.... literally every page says "Dada." SO cute! 
He loves cars and Mustangs, so when his favorite magazine came in the mail the other day, I stuck it in the basket too, so he would have something to read while we wait.

I also made sure he would have some change on him for the vending machine. I put a bunch of quarters in the envelope so he could get himself some other drinks and snacks during our stay.

I grabbed a bin from my classroom as I was packing it up and made a little sign for it and stuck it on the front..  and that was it! Super simple to put together and he loves it. Now I just have to make sure it makes it to the hospital with us!!

Don't worry... you'll be able to download the sign at the end FOR FREE! :)

We're never gonna survive the birth without some amazing hospital staff, so of course I want them to feel appreciated and taken care of. So, I made two little baskets for the staff and nurses who will be on duty during our stay.

I bought all kinds of candy, gum, snacks, and drinks at Target, using sales, coupons, and the Cartwheel app to help cut costs. I also grabbed some lotion and little hand sanitizers at Bath & Body Works when they had their semi-annual sale in June. I am so excited to leave them at the nurses station so they can treat themselves on their shift and stay fueled while they care for us and our new baby!

New Daddy Survival Kit

I'll be back one day (soon!) to share our little one's arrival with you... I can't wait!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Clean Desk Award

It was becoming apparent over the last couple of weeks that my students needed a little motivation to work on keeping their desks clean and organized. I mean, some of them were just AWFUL. The worst I'd ever seen. It was time for action!

I've seen "Desk Fairy" notes floating around on blogs & TpT, but my 3rd graders wouldn't buy into that, as most of their parents don't refer to the Tooth Fairy or anything. So, instead, I whipped up my own version really quick Wednesday afternoon. I had some Starbursts, and inspiration just struck!

I simply printed them onto colored cardstock, attached a Starburst with some tape, and wrote an encouraging little note to them!

You can CLICK HERE and grab them for FREE to motivate and reward your students too!

Friday, January 15, 2016

I've got a secret!

I've been keeping a secret, and today I FINALLY shared it with my students and thought I should share it with all of you as well!

I gave my students this riddle page. They had to solve the multiplication problems and match the products to a letter to solve the code and discover my secret!

Here's it is, so you can take a minute and guess my secret along with my students! I put it on Facebook today as well so that I could finally announce to the rest of our family and friends!

O-H So Blessed

Did you get it?! If you don't want to figure out what it says, here's the answer....


Yep, that's right! I'm pregnant! My husband and I are expecting our first child in July and we are so excited to finally be sharing the news with everyone we know!

I made a version of this fun riddle page for any teacher to use! It says "Your teacher is having a baby!" using multiplication or addition facts, instead of having a specific teacher's name. If you or a colleague ever need to reveal a pregnancy to their class, you can download by clicking here!

Thanks so much for sharing in my secret today with my hubby and I! I can't wait to continue sharing more with you as we continue this new journey!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Classroom Management Part Four: VIP Students!


What does that mean to you when you hear that someone is a VIP?

Typically, I think of A-list celebrities and folks who have boatloads of cash. People our society deems "important." I also think of backstage passes to concerts. Generally, that's called a VIP pass, or something. Again, something society deems as "important."

I first saw the idea for this classroom management strategy on Instagram, and WISH I could remember who posted it and even came up with this fabulous idea. I know several of my teacher friends are implementing this in their classrooms, but I want to give credit where credit is due. If you are the originator of this idea, or know who is, and happen to be reading this. My props to you! This idea is fantastic. I love it and give you all of the credit for it! I can take none whatsoever.

That being said, I of course took it and ran with the idea, putting my own spin on it as I always do with anything I see. I would hope that's the mark of a good, creative teacher... I would hope...

Anyhow, here's what a VIP means in my classroom and how I use it for positive motivation.

Right away this school year, I knew I would need a large handful of tricks and tools to implement to keep up with my new students. In my class of 18, twelve are boys. TWELVE! That's a LOT of eight-year-old boy energy. So, when I first saw this VIP idea last school year, I didn't think much of it because I had a well-behaved class of 15, with 13 of them girls. It didn't seem necessary. But this year, boy did it EVER!

So, I finally decided to jump into it when I saw some cool school supplies on clearance at Target one day. There was also this really cool shower caddy that was on clearance for about $4 so I picked up (thinking there was no way I could fill it!) and set out shopping.

You see, the premise for the VIP Student acknowledgement is that these students display above and beyond role model behavior. They are students who really don't need classroom management, because they are responsible, well-behaved, on task, respectful, everything a model student exemplifies. It doesn't mean they are the smartest, brightest, coolest, most popular, prettiest, whatever. It is none of those things. It is about their HEART, in my eyes.

So, after I bought A BUNCH of awesome goodies (more about those in a bit) I thought about what I expected of my VIP students. The next day at school, I asked my students what it meant to them when they heard "VIP" and then asked, "what should that look like in our classroom?"

I was blown away by their responses.

These all came from them. I had no part of it - I just wrote them down. They NAILED it!

I made these signs and badges. Every day, I select 2 student VIPs, and that day they wear these badges and display the signs on their desks. (the little plastic display signs are from Michaels)

I don't have room in my for a special VIP table, so instead the VIPs can choose to sit back with me and the tub of supplies at my table. (I don't have a teacher desk - I sit at our kidney table).

If you like the signs I use, you can download them HERE AS A FREEBIE!

I choose two VIPs almost every day, but sometimes, there aren't any. I don't force the VIP issue. I really make sure my students EARN it. Sometimes, I make notes about who should be VIP (and have even had a wait list before!) but other times, I just go off of memory. Plus, as with every class, I have a handful of "go-to" students who are always on task and reliable.

What I love most about this program is that it really DOES motivate students. I have a boy who comes in EVERY morning when he unpacks and looks to see who are the VIPs. He is highly motivated to earn it, and though he has only twice so far this year, I have seen a notable change in his overall behavior! How fantastic! I also love that I can acknowledge and reward the students who are always strong, positive role models. They earn a positive reward, rather than my giving a negative consequence to the rest of the class. This class has been together for many years (they are the only class in the grade) so they have had their share of challenges over the years. What has also been great about having VIPs, is that parents have also told me they appreciate that students are being recognized in a positive manner, rather than negatively.

So, here are all of the goodies, which I add to frequently!

Glitter glue, glitter markers, neon markers, metallic markers, metallic crayons, glitter crayons, special highlighters, giant highlighters from Target, a fun tape dispenser, Mr. Sketch scented markers, color changing markers (from Dollar Tree), scented erasers, fun-edged craft scissors, and twistable colored pencils.

I will say that it was a bit of an investment, but SO worth it. I keep my eyes open when I am out and about, especially looking in clearance sections. I was able to get the Mr. Sketch markers on clearance at Office Max after the back to school season.

The first day I brought this in, the class was so excited about using them. They were practically DROOLING over it! Their affinity for school supplies rivals my own.. I love it!

Just the other day, I asked them to share with me how it feels to them when they are VIP and why they like being the VIP for the day. Most of the responses I received were something along the lines of  "because it is awesome!" and "I get to use cool supplies!" or "I like using smelly markers." But a few of them touched me and completely blew me away. The impact of the VIP bin and a badge was more than I had ever expected.

This one got to me instantly. As soon as I read it, my heart broke. What must this little boy be feeling when he ISN'T VIP?? I am so glad he shared this, and that I can provide a way for him to feel important in the classroom. I want my students to know that they are special. To know they have value. They were created on and for a purpose, and in my classroom that means something. They are a VIP in God's eyes and I will not deny that either!

They are oh, so special. I want for them to feel special. To know that they are noticed. They are working hard. They are doing well. That I am proud of them and that I see it. I think sometimes it is so easy to focus on the negative behaviors and punishments in the classroom. I say that because I have been and continue to be guilty of it sometimes. I am by no means perfect. But, I am always reflecting and cognizant of where I place my attention. Some negative behaviors warrant addressing, some don't. I prefer to focus on the POSITIVE things my students are doing. The POSITIVE ways they are treating one another and honoring God with their actions, work, and speech every day. It's a choice I can make in response to the choices they make.

I look at it most simply as this: how will they remember feeling in third grade? If they remember that they felt special, I'll feel as though I was successful. If they don't feel as though they were special to me, I'll have failed. Simple as that.

I really loved reading this one too. I was glad this little boy realized that in our classroom, being VIP is EARNED, not given.

About a month ago, I caught two of my sweet girls passing notes to each other. As I read it, it say "student A and student B are so lucky!" (I won't use their names) and she meant they were lucky because they were chosen to be VIPs that day. Though I needed to punish and discuss with them the note passing, I instead focused on the "lucky" part of the note. It bothered me. That word always does. Lucky. I don't like it. It's a major pet peeve of mine... and I will save you from that rant. That's all you really need to know so I'll move on to the rest of the story.... What bothered me was that she didn't see that those two students had EARNED being VIP that day with their hard work the day before. She missed it completely. So, we stopped and talked about it as a class. We reviewed the anchor chart we had made about being VIP, and how it isn't "lucky" to be able to do those things. It comes from discipline and hard work. We are not jealous of those who are VIPs, we are excited for and encourage them because they earned it.

I think it goes along well with the feeling special from above. I certainly don't want them to feel "better than" someone else. I don't allow bragging or boasting in anyway either. But I hope that it instills within themselves some small amount of pride and confidence that they are doing well, that they are loved, that they are special.

Because they are.