Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Classroom Management Linky!

First linky party!  I hope I'm doing it right!  If you stick through it to the end, there's a little freebie.  Nothing fancy!

So, classroom management.  It's kindaofabigdeal, no?  And I have all the cutesy answers that I would give if I were interviewing for a new position:
  • "I believe that positive reinforcement has more power than consequences."  (Yeah, I do.)
  • "I have A System."  (Well, kind of.)
  • "I strive to contact parents just as often about THE GOOD as the bad!"  (Well...if I have the time, I do.)
Here's the thing about classroom management, though...I can't just sum it all up in a neat little package.  I have had years that were ah-maz-ing where the kids practically managed themselves.  I have had years where it was a three-ring circus no matter WHAT I did.  (In my 7 years teaching, I have had two merry-go-rounds with THAT class.  You know, the combination of personalities that is so terrible that you start fantasizing about summer in November.)  But you know what's hysterical?  I now have a reputation as being a "strong" teacher with "excellent" classroom management.  You know what that means...I get the wild children!  Part of it is because I co-teach the inclusion class, for sure.  And that has meant more than my fair share (I think) of out-of-control, wild, disruptive children (some of whom have had serious emotional disorders, so no parent-shaming here).  Last year I had a child who pitched tantrums that were so epic that it took multiple trained adults (read: not me!  Off the hook for that one!) to restrain and de-escalate her.  She ended up leaving us in November for an alternative school and is now in a residential treatment facility.  That's some serious business, for sure.  And yet...learning carried on, we did what we needed to do around the tantrums, and I don't think anyone's too scarred by it.  (Although I could do with a class of sweetie-pies next year, if the Gods of Classroom Lists are listening.)

So, what do I do?  Nothing that special, truly.  Here's my top 5 list of Classroom Management Tips (I was going to do a Top 10, but then I would be writing a novel):

1.) Lay out rituals and routines for EVERYTHING.  It is not crazy to do anchor charts about every itsy-bitsy thing in the beginning.  (I have made an anchor chart about Math Tools every year...3 rules: Share.  No throwing math tools.  DO NOT PUT MATH TOOLS IN YOUR MOUTH.  And we review it every single time we get out math tools.  That leaves no room for misunderstanding.)  Review those rituals and routines for much longer than you think you should have to and at the FIRST sign of things getting squirrely around the ages, review them again. 

2.) When you are teaching or reviewing procedures, let your favorite naughty child model both the wrong way and the right way.  (Thanks Daily 5, for that tip-it applies to regular old classroom management, too.)  You cannot praise too much for doing the right thing AND if that little trouble-causing cupcake is an attention-seeker, you've just satisfied his/her craving for the spotlight for a bit.

3.)  Have some kind of a system for individual rewards and whole class rewards.  For individual rewards, you can try the points system, a clip chart, or whatever your heart desires.  (This year I'm going to give classdojo a whirl since we do PBIS at our school and it would line up perfectly with our points.)  For whole class rewards, I have had great success with brownie points.  (And we don't always do can do cupcakes, popcorn, whatever.)  Put the display where they can see it, set the number ahead of time, and SELL IT. 

4.) For children who have behavioral disorders or demonstrate extremely unacceptable behaviors (tantrums, hitting, ripping up work, the list is very very long of what could fall under this category), you're going to have to tweak the individual rewards system as necessary.  Not going to lie, this is both really hard and essential.  Draw up a behavior contract, decide what the terms are going to be, and try to PRAISE OFTEN.  I have the most success with kids who think I am on their side.  Even for the kids whose behaviors are really annoying (like my little friend whose medicine wore off after lunch every day and tended to crawl under the table, where he would bark like a dog and yell out at classmates)...they need to know that you see them as a person, not a Problem Kid.  

5.) My thoughts on bribery offering positive incentives: Verbal praise is powerful.  Very powerful.  You do not have to spend tons of money on treasure box junk to get kids to behave for you.  Also, if you play up a reward and make it out to be the BEST THING EVER, they will fall for it.  I do spend money on prizes, but teeny-tiny ones....stickers and pencils, mostly.  Since we do PBIS at our school, we have a short Fun Friday time every Friday.  Often my co-teacher bakes something and we just have extra recess for the kids who can participate.  Sometimes we will do something a little more "fun" that relates to what we're learning about, such as making an edible map in Social Studies.  Either way, I would rather spend money on those activities than stuff from Oriental Trading.  For high-stakes situations where I think the promise of a bribe reward might be helpful (such as being quiet in the hall while other grades are testing), I will offer them ONE Skittle/M&M/Starburst (whatever's in the candy jar) as a given if they do what they're supposed to.  If you hold onto the good stuff for extra special occasions, it's really effective.  

BONUS #6 (I had one more thing to say): I take hallway behavior really's probably vanity, but I don't want to be That know, the one other teachers look at with a pitying glance because the children are turning backflips down the hallway.  Last year I had "tickets" (really business cards) printed up on VistaPrint (but you could totally use regular tickets)...I look for two-three kids every day in the hall to give a tech ticket to.  They have to really impress me to get one, so they are all on their best behavior.

Here is what my tech tickets look like...they're not that cute, but the kids think they're amazing:

I made some tech tickets for anybody who might want something similar.  I left them kind of plain Jane, but you could print them out on neon paper to make them a little jazzier!  

Click here for them!

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