One of the first things I learned in my first year of teaching is that I had to find a classroom management style that I was comfortable with. I learned very quickly that my students didn’t seem to be aware that sometimes I have no idea what I am doing. I know. The horror. However, that knowledge gave me the freedom I needed to experiment and try new things.
And try new things is exactly what I did, and continue to do, on a daily basis. It never ceases to amaze me how flexible my students are. I frequently discover that one of my brilliant ideas completely flops, and then I find myself at the front of my classroom exclaiming “Ok, new rule. Listen up.” What follows is an explanation of why we have to change the seemingly brilliant system, what went wrong, and how we are going to fix it.
For example, this year I happen to have a very, very chatty class. As in diarrhea of the mouth. They have it. They are good kids, all of them, but they have very leaky mouths. As a result, my head finally popped off because I couldn’t take it anymore, and I had to come up with some way to manage the chatter.
Enter table points. It’s been years since I’ve used table points, and they are exactly what this group needs. Immediately they were on board. Table points are super simple.
When my students enter the classroom after recess, I walk to the front of the room with my tally board and remind them that I’m looking for the first table group that is seated and ready to listen.
I feel very powerful as I watch them trip over each other in their mad dash to get to their seats and ready.
Table points are also assigned when groups are on task and moving through transitions quickly and quietly. I assign rewards for table points right before recess, lunch, and the end of the day. The group with the most points gets to go to recess or lunch early, or they get to pack up and be the first ones out the door at the end of the day. I erase the points every time a reward is given so that every table has a chance to win, and there’s never a table group without a chance of catching up to the others.
It’s a beautiful thing.
I don’t know how long table points are going to work for this group, but for now it’s working.
These colorful popsicle sticks are another reward system that I borrowed from my fellow sixth grade teacher, and have been using successfully for the past three years. Students earn popsicle sticks which they can use to buy things from me. Privileges are a smart thing to sell because they don’t cost anything, but I also sell candy. Here’s an example of some of the things students can buy.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that students have to pay to use the restroom in my class. Yes, it’s true. If I have to time my bathroom breaks to coincide with recess and lunch, then so do they. I tell them that they have to pay to pee in my class. And they have young bladders and have never given birth, so I am not sympathetic. They don’t think I’m very funny, but they accept it because I AM THE LAW.
Name that movie.
I bought these cute little containers at the Target Dollar Spot when I started my table points. I needed a way to number the tables, and it turns out that these are pretty functional too.
My students have all managed to lose their red pens for grading each other’s papers, so I bought mass quantities of cheap ball point pens and cheap faux flower bouquets at Walmart. I then spent an evening with my BFF, and with her help turned them all into flower pens. The red blooms have red ink, and the pink and yellow blooms have blue ink. Now everyone has a pen, and their table groups look fabulous too.
I’d like to see them slip out of class surreptitiously hiding a flower pen. It cannot be done.
Every adult that has seen my flower pens has asked me what the boys think of them. Like they’re worried that the pens are too girlie for the boys, but the funny thing is that I think they love them even more than the girls do. I have one very special young gentleman who especially likes to wear one bloom tucked behind each ear.
It is through the flower pens we discovered that pink is his color.
This is one of my monsters. He wasn’t always a cyclops, but he has been well loved. We’re comfortable with his myopic outlook.
When I went back to work three years ago, it was my first time teaching in an elementary school setting, as I had taught sixth grade in a middle school in my previous life. As I was preparing my classroom for my new adventure, a fellow teacher asked me what my classroom theme was.
Theme? What? I need a theme?
I replied with the only answer I could think of. “Um . . . Empty?”
It was well into that first year back that I decided my theme was going to be Monsters. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for monsters, so it was the obvious choice.
Anyway, the monster at the beginning of this post and this little green guy sit on the desks of the top three Accelerated Math Objective earners for each week.
The other coveted stuffy is this little guy. My hero. Skippy JJ. Skipito Friskito. Kitty Boy Bandito.
If you aren’t familiar with him, he is Skippy John Jones, the Siamese cat who thinks he’s a Chihuahua. A Spanish speaking Chihuahua who doesn’t really know how to speak Spanish, but he thinks he’s speaking Spanish when he adds the suffix -ito to everything and uses Mexican food names as interjections. Interjections like “Holy Guacamole!”
These are just a few of the things that have worked for me. What about you? What classroom management systems have worked well for you? Please share. I like to keep my students on their toes with the next great thing.