Problem of the Day as Routine

teaching kidsI was so glad to hear that Common Core had less standards that the 1997 set in California. When you look at the pages of standards you have to teach in a year, it can produce anxiety. A reasonable response to that anxiety can be to schedule too much each day. It’s been said it’s better to aim at something and miss than to aim at nothing and hit your target. A problem of the day for math and language arts can seem miniscule but if done every day, you can get a lot done over a year. 185 standards covered in both ELA and math, that sounds good to me! I can feel anxiety lifting as I type it. If you go through them as a class, you have a different approach that isn’t possible all day long. Plus, the mind likes routines and chunks of information. All these things are the pros of doing a problem of the day. Continue reading “Problem of the Day as Routine”

5 Better Ways To Discipline Than Removing Recess

When a child misbehaves in your classroom, is your first response to have him lose recess time? In 2006 a study found that 81.4 percent of schools allowed this as a punishment. Yet in a time when kids are suffering from greater attention problems and poor social skills (not to mention problems with childhood obesity on the rise), taking away recess and the chance to run around simply is not the right option.

Put the Child to Work

Sometimes kids act out because they have pent-up energy or are bored with the classroom instruction. Cutting recess makes these problems worse. So, instead of cutting out the part of the day they really need, give the children a job to do as a disciplinary action.

This can be something simple, like taking a document to the office, or something a bit more involved, like vacuuming the carpet or cleaning the board. Try to find a time, outside of that vital recess period, that the child can perform the job.

Reward Positive Behavior

Sometimes rewarding positive behavior is just as effective as punishing negative behavior. When students see their classmates earning a coveted reward, they will work harder to earn it as well.

Consider a system where your students can earn a sticker on a chart for each day without behavior issues. When they achieve a set number of stickers, they receive a reward. Rewards can be simple things, like:

  • Using the teacher’s desk for the day
  • Switching desks with a friend
  • Picking their favorite weekly job
  • Free time on the computer
  • Lunch with the teacher
  • Choosing a toy from a reward bin

You can create a list that is specific to your classroom and your students. The key is to be consistent in helping children attain a prize, and the positive rewards will help curtail negative behavior.

Involve the Parents

Sometimes, even in spite of your positive reinforcement techniques, you need to impose a negative consequence when children misbehave. For those instances, consider a timeout from a coveted activity that is not recess, like music class or free reading time at the end of the day. The timeout should be short, but long enough to get the child’s attention.

Then, if the behavior does not improve, it’s time to bring in the parents. In many instances, parental involvement is more effective than taking away recess time. A simple note home can bring much better results than days of missed recesses. Having a child who was caught using foul language repeat those words to his mom over the phone may do more good than hours of social isolation. Continue reading “5 Better Ways To Discipline Than Removing Recess”

Look at it Differently

When you face an UN-solveable riddle as a teacher, you might find a solution if you step back and look at it differently. Currently, I am dealing with a small yet tedious situation with a bookshelf. I moved it and now I don’t think its location is optimal for my students. I moved it where it is now to assist me in my lesson planning but in doing so through “tunnel vision” I failed to see how it would block a large area where I could present student work. I went over the placement again and again in my mind coming up empty on a win/win idea. Sometime today, I will sit down and sketch an aerial view of my classroom, in hopes of finding a better placement. Of course, i have left out the part about how heavy and obtrusive it is. I believe it can be used in an optimal way to serve both the teacher and students. As of yet though, I haven’t a clue how.

Making a schematic of the room is a way to look at the conundrum differently. I have used this approach to many teaching issues with positive results. This approach could mean many things: videoing yourself teaching, asking a colleagues perspective, a Principal. My drawing I will make at my kitchen table is a change of perspective. It is a way of viewing a problem “from a distance.” Sometimes looking at your situation differently is the secret to a dynamite lesson plan.

The Written Behavior Log – A Win/Win/Win

Keeping a written record of things students do is powerful when dealing with parents, the Principal, and when seeking to improve the school’s behavioral programs. It carries more weight than your simple “recollection” of events.

20120817-141710.jpgProbably the best student behavior related advice I ever got as a new teacher was to “Write things down.” Keeping a written record of things students do is powerful when dealing with parents, the Principal, and when seeking to improve the school’s behavioral programs. It carries more weight than your simple “recollection” of events. If Johnny misbehaves, the parent and administration wants to know exactly how and when he did so. This can be a fancy three ring binder you create or just a lined sheet of paper on a clipboard. The only essential is that it must be written in regularly. It’s so important, I say it should be part of any sound classroom management.

3Is2Win 1: The parent. We live and teach in a time where the teacher/parent relationship is constantly being redefined. For one student, you are the “guide,” the “mentor.” This is of course the ideal situation we hope for with all our students. Unfortunately, there are other parents who can be hostile toward teachers. They can complain to no end and even enter the classroom sometimes to share their discontent about their child. These are the ones we must give our full attention. They may have a real concern but in other cases, they may just want someone to hear their complaints. In either case, you need to be a listener #1. Imagine if you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you want to be heard? What if your child was being bullied? On the other hand, what if your child were accused of bullying? I have seen upset parents calm down quite quickly simply because I didn’t react or reply, I only listened and gave active listening feedback. If something has happened with their child on the offending end, you will have a much better case if you have a written behavior log. You can examine your well reasoned points if you are lucky. Without a behavior log of the events their child was involved in, you don’t have a leg to stand on and they may try to assault your character, saying you have no proof or you make things up. Let me not here that the goal of a teacher should always be so find a positive solution with parents. We, in a real sense, work for them. We do not, however, have to be at the mercy of ones who seek to disparage us because we are allegedly disorganized or without proof.

With_SupesWin #2: Your Boss. The Principal will greatly appreciate your log as well. I think they have one of the hardest jobs in education. They field complaints all day as well as attempt to foster an ideal learning environment. When they get a phone call about a child in your class, you can get out your log and show your observations. Without the log, it is your word against the parent and that put the Principal in a very precarious situation. We all want the needs of the child to be met. The Behavior log can help us to that end, even if it documents what the child has done wrong. We can look at positive solutions. If you simply try to recall what has happened in class, you run the risk of being the problem! That’s right, a Principal may choose to see you as the problem even when the child has done wrong. The solution? Write it down as it happens. This can also be a great tool to pull out during a time of teacher evaluation.

IMG_0045Win #3: The School. The best reason to have a behavior log is to help constant improvement of the school’s behavior plan. You can bring that information to a school site council meeting (or other meeting) and make informed statements about what behavior problems are occurring. If multiple teachers see trends, it can be possible to brainstorm solutions. You can show statistics at parents meetings as well as any meetings that concern student behavior and safety. This benefits the school and the child as well as the family. Most schools in the 21st century recognize the value of those three entities.

To close, I encourage you to keep a behavior log in your classroom. It will foster your professionalism with parents and administration as well as benefit the school. Sounds like a win/win/win right?

Please leave a comment! This is a blog that thrives on other peoples’ opinions. Thank you in advance for commenting.

Three Tools You Can Use to Make Effective Lessons

The skill of writing lesson plans is crucial to running an effective classroom. This is common knowledge I am sure most will agree. The question for the effective teacher then becomes:

What teaching tools are out there to use to make effective lesson plans?

In this post I give you three tools, though there are many others, to do make effective lesson plans.

The first tool is a standard, or objective. Here in my state of California, we have made great inroads toward success by using the state standards framework. The Common Core will be here soon and that is also a great way to map out lessons. The objectives for each grade level have been articulated on aour academic standards website and teachers are free to access them. They are also responsible to teach from them and show results at the end of the school year. Every state and district give guidelines, that are usually online, to teaching everything in your year. Continue reading “Three Tools You Can Use to Make Effective Lessons”

Beyond Table Points

IMG_2541.JPGTable points are amazingly helpful in my classroom. Each table takes initiative to win points by listening and participating. I’ve discovered over the years that competition works. My 4th graders will compete to get the prize every time. For this reason, I seat my students at tables, not individual desks. This enables them to have elbow room and engage in discussion. I find that group discussion often fills in teaching objectives that I might not have covered in traditional teaching. It works well for every subject, including fostering self-esteem.  Continue reading “Beyond Table Points”

Dont Over Stuff Your Brain

When it comes to our brains, less is more and quality is better than quantity. Slow down and take more breaks, you’ll be amazed how much more you retain for life!

Whether you are learning or teaching, it’s important to not over stuff your brain. Studies have shown that the mind cannot absorb more than three things at a time. So, if you are writing, don’t make more than 3 main points or they will be wasted on over-fed minds. If you are looking to read and understand something, break it down into three or less main categories. Yellow pads are great for this. You’d do well to “space out” the time you have to study as well. The theory of time spaced learning got me through College Algebra at the junior college. I have always struggled with math and a teacher shared with the class about it. My life has been improved ever since!

The theory goes like this: instead of studying to absorb new material over the course of an hour, break up your time into 15 minute increments. The data shows that memory is strongest when you start and stop a study time. Therefore, instead of having strong memories only twice in an hour, you will have them at the start and stop of each mini session. This equals more knowledge retained! Now this was great news to me, because I loved taking breaks from math!

When it comes to our brains, less is more and quality is better than quantity. Slow down and take more breaks, you’ll be amazed how much more you retain for life!

Search Google for PDF and DOC Worksheets for Your Lesson

20130111-144253.jpgI own a few Disney Nature videos along with some Bill Nye the Science Guy ones as well as some cool Nat Geo programs. When they complement the curriculum and standards, I use them in my lesson. Recently I discovered that videos like “March of the Penguins” have a plethora of PDF and DOC worksheets findable on Google. In most cases these are teacher created ANC absolutely free.

If you are looking to use video in your lesson, you may want to do a PDF or DOC search on Google. Someone may have done valuable work that will increase comprehension of your lesson’s content. HINT: try Google’s advanced search feature. There is a line where you can filter by file type.

Teacher as Student

tumblr_n19nvqQrgQ1r1kqreo1_500.jpgThis is true for teachers too. The next time you are leading your class, why not be open to the idea that some student in the class could teach you something new. If not about the standards you are studying, then about people and children the age of which you teach. We should be listeners as well as pontificators of lessons.