Monday, July 30, 2012

Top 10 Things to Have Ready for the First Day of School

It is the end of July, which means August and school are fast approaching. I know for newer teachers this is a crazy time making sure everything is ready for that first day or even week. But, with so much to do how to determine what is the MOST important in terms of planning for the next few weeks. Well, here is my Top 10 list of things that in my opinion must be ready to go day 1!

*This is in my own order of importance going from least to greatest... and this is in no way a scientific thing =)

10) What you are going to wear- I know this sounds very elementary school but I promise this will set the tone. If you come into school looking professional and ready for business the students will see you as professional and ready for business. I probably go two full weeks before I ditch the heels but by that time the initial impression has been received. "I am a professional. I know what I'm doing. And we will work!"

9) Desk placement- Are the students going to sitting in rows? Are they going to be in groups? This is your personal preference and how comfortable you are in your management of the classroom and age group. I personal have them all facing forward with as little group contact the first week or two. That's something they have to earn. For more on desk placement planning check out my blog article on "Classroom Mapping".

8) Student Materials- I have an ongoing interactive notebook that we work through as a class. In working in this notebook, the students have to have quick access to all sorts of crafty things; glue, scissors, colored pencils, markers, etc. It is good to know going into the year where this things are going to be stored and how the students are going to access them in the least amount of academic time wasted.

7) Safety Plans- A tornado drill, a fire alarm, an intruder. All of these things have happened in schools or we would practice them. Be familiar with these drills and procedures before day one.

6) Teacher Area- It is your world after all. Before day one you should have your little corner of the world mapped out and set up. You most definitely need a place to file away papers, place to keep curriculum, helpful teacher books, a computer, printer, pencils, pens, sticky notes, etc. etc.

5) A Reward System- As important as it is to know your rules and consequences, it is equally as important to have a plan to focus on your "all-stars". So often teachers spend so much time focusing on how students are acting incorrectly and therefor spending most of their day pulling out their hair dealing with consequences. From day one, know how you are going to reward the good ones. I use carnival tickets and give them out like crazy starting on the first day. "Oh, you came in and went directly to your assigned seat, AWESOME! Here's a ticket." "Oh, you followed the procedure for sharpening your pencil, SWEET! Here's a ticket." Students save up the tickets and can buy things later like a bathroom pass, or a few second to leave early from class, or a positive phone call home. Kids love it!

4) Rules and Consequences- You need to have them posted (BOTH OF THEM) before that first bell rings. Students need to know what to expect from day one or they will dominate you.

3) The Very First Assignment- What are the students going to be doing while you welcoming everyone into the room? Are they filling out a student survey? Are they writing their information down on a card? I have a really good friend who told me she makes that first day's assignment as strenuous as possible and grades it hard. The students need to be aware on day one they cannot opt out of working in class. Even if you don't want to go that hard core, you definitely need something so they are working while you are tending to other tasks. Or maybe something so you can start building relationships. It all depends on you.

2) A Few Procedures Written Out and Ready to Practice- You don't want to bombard them with every procedure they are ever going to need on day one, but you do need to start teaching a few. On the first day, I teach how to enter the room, what the beginning of class looks like, coming in tardy, and how to leave the room. And I actually teach it, and we actually practice. When I went through my teacher certification program they told us to treat teaching procedures like you teach a lesson. There is an "I Do" where I tell the kids, There is a "We Do" where we all practice together. There is a "You Do" where I watch the students practice and practice and practice until it is perfect.

And Drummmmmrolllllll:
1) Seating Chart Day 1- This does not have the be the seating chart forever and ever but you do have to have a way to get kids from your door to their own seat without making them feel like you are unorganized, uncaring person. I have heard of and seen many different ways to do this. What I and one of my good friends do is go buy two packs of playing cards. Tape one deck to the desk and hand out the other deck to the students as they walk in. This is awesome in a couple ways; The students know exactly where to go (I used UNO cards my first year and the kids thought the 6s looked like 9s. It was a mess), you get to greet each student at the door while monitoring student behavior, you get to see the students interact with each other which will be helpful knowledge later. =)

Hope this helps and I hope everyone is getting excited for the start of school... I know I'm starting to get bored!

"Readiness is the primary determinant of teacher effectiveness"- Harry Wong

Mrs. Callahan

P.S. I'm going classroom shopping later this week, get ready for some room set up pictures!!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rules vs. Procedures

This is probably one of my favorite parts about starting a new year; I get to mold the atmosphere of my own classroom from day one. And I know to more experienced teachers this post is going to be "Duh, Mrs. Callahan." but for others this may help. What I have found through readings and experience is simply:

Rules = Consequence; Procedures= Practice

I know, I know... I am genius. (Just kidding) But I see constantly in school students receiving consequences for broken procedures when a lot of the time they are just confused on how to follow said procedure. I want to back up and start with rules, they seem to be easier and everyone has them.

"Rules create a strong expectation about the things that are important to you." - Harry Wong

In setting rules there should of course be tiers. Rules that if broken you get a firm talkin' to and rules that get you a one way ticket to the office with the possibility of never returning. I had a really good teacher friend who is a classroom management guru talk to me once about looking at rules like you look at the US government.
1) Federal Laws- In the school world these laws are the big ones brought down by the school or school board and you as teacher have nothing to do but follow these to a T. Examples include: Bringing a weapon to school, drugs, fighting, etc). These rules are pretty easy, send them to the office (usually with an escort is best)
2) State Laws- These in my situation are set by the grade level teams and are SUPPOSE to be consistent across the board. This is my goal for this next year. But, these would be rules like; being tardy, disrupting class, calling someone a name, etc. The team should also come up with consistent consequences for these laws.
If you need help on this one I would suggest reading The First Days of School by Harry Wong and/or Tools for Teaching by Fred Jones. Both have excellent ideas on classroom rules and consequences.
3)County Laws- I absolutely cannot stand students up out of their seats and walking around without permission. Your hand needs to go up before your bum! In another class however the teacher could be okay with giving students that freedom and that works for them. These rules are the smaller, personal ones with smaller consequences attached. These rules, in my class anyways, usually deserve a redirection or a quick private conversation outside.

I am still in the process of fine tuning my classroom rules on once I have them finalized and pretty I will re post on this topic. But a final note on rules "All discipline plans have consequences. POST YOUR CONSEQUENCES"- Harry Wong

"When students know how the class is run, they will be more willing to do whatever you want of them."- Harry Wong.
In my personal opinion I think teaching procedures are WAY more fun than rules. Rules have a negative outcome...I am a positive person...doesn't go together. Procedures have to be taught, they have to be practiced and they have to be perfected. Once all these things happen your room will be smooth sailing. Look around your room. What will your students do everyday? What will they do on a weekly basis? What will they do sporadically but will still need to practice and be ready? All of these things are procedures that need to be taught. My first year of teaching I read CHAMPs: A Proactive & Positive Approach to Classroom Management for Grades K-9- Randy Sprick. This is a great way to look at and post procedures. I used it my whole first year and still use the concept now but don't post the actually CHAMP posters. For those of you unfamiliar CHAMP stands for:
C-Conversation (What kind of conversation should be happening during this activity)
H- Help (How do you get help during this activity)
A- Activity (What is this activity, what should you exactly be doing)
M- Movement (How should your movement look during this activity)
P- Participation (How do I as the teacher know you as the student are participating fully)

I use this now to look at my procedures and then come up with a simplified way of displaying it.

Once you know what you procedures are, it is now time to practice. This part always makes the evil side of me giggle. I won't bore you with every way in which I practice all my procedures but my favorite is taking students to lunch. Right before lunch, last year, I had my "Pre-AP" class. In order to get from my classroom to the cafeteria you have to turn down 4 different hallways and go down two flights of stairs. The very first day I taught my students that they would stop at 4 different spots on our "magical" journey to the lunch room. BUT FIRST! In order to even get out the door they had to line up SILENTLY IN the classroom. Mind Blown! Remember procedures are all about consistency so EVERY (and I kid you not EVERY) time they would try and line up and ONE person would talk in lunch line we would sit down and practice again. Right before Christmas break the class was a mood and, no joke, we practice lining up in lunch line for so long I started eating my salad waiting for them to get it right. Heh heh heh.

I am a very firm believer that classroom management is 98% procedures and 2% rules/consequences. If your students know they are to come in silently and begin work, if you have practiced it 100 times, if the students know if they don't do it they will practice 100 times more, then I promise you, you are way less likely for a student to come in, push another student, call another one a name and then get sent to the office.

Again, once I finalize my rules, consequences and procedures I will make them look pretty and post pictures. Final thoughts on all of this

"Effective teachers manager with procedures. Every time the teacher wants something done, there must be a procedure or a set of procedures." -Harry Wong
"The standards in any classroom are defined by whatever the students can get away with"-Fred Jones
"Its easier to have high standards than to have low standards"- Fred Jones (I promise you this one is true!)

Mrs. Callahan

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Classroom Mapping Cont.

So, I decided to upload pictures really quick before our cheerleading lock-in starts. I had talked yesterday about setting up a classroom with the most maneuvering room possible. I mapped out what I thought I wanted with the room and went ahead and set it up. This is what I got.

Excuse the mess, I'm slowly but surely putting stuff together. I did however want to point out the large center aisle which has never happened in this classroom... ever. I opted to not have a desk but a nook instead with seats available for student conferencing. I am very happy about how the room turned out seating wise. Next stop, placement of everyday things.

"Arranging student desks so that your students can focus on their work is important for their success." -The First-Year Teacher's Survival Guide by Julia Thompson

Mrs. Callahan

P.S. Wish me luck on staying up late with 11 cheerleaders. I will need it. Well, that and lots of RedBull!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Classroom Mapping

Yes, this is a made up term used by me, but it is the most concise term I could come up with for what I do prior to school coming back into session. Let me explain. When I got my teaching job 2 years ago I walked into a barren room with nothing more than a some stools, chairs and permanently placed "lab tables" filled with graffiti and a warning of termination to anyone with the bright idea to remove said "lab tables". My room looked like so:

Let me go into the many problems going on in this picture. First, despite how it looks in the picture, my room is rather small. Last year I had one class with 33 students on roster and in the one occurrence where all students were present I didn't have enough seats. Welcome to the public education system! Second, it has been shown in many new teacher readings as well as personal experience to never EVER have your students with their back to you. Nothing is good for a student who has the ability to turn his body and give you the back of the head. Consider this:

Say there is a student sitting with his back to you on that first lab table you see with his back to you. He comes in everyday and never turns around to acknowledge you while you are delivering you directions or lecture. When you call him out and ask him to look at you he retorts back "I'm just writing notes". Some of following could happen; he COULD be taking notes but is not fully grasping the concept because he is awkwardly turned to look and write OR he could NOT be taking notes but since he is in a supreme position to hide his work with his body you as the teacher may not catch this.

"Desks do not have to be in traditional rows, but all chairs should face forward so that all eyes are focused on you."- Harry Wong

Preach it Mr. Wong! So, with obnoxious tables and the possibility of 30+ students I face the laborious task of creating the flow of universe. This is where I start mapping. Now, if you are not able to get into classroom early enough to take a look around and come up with a plan or have been in the same room for years now this might be more difficult and require more furniture moving. I have been in the same room for 2 years and am in and out of the school all summer due to cheerleading so this works for me.

This plan is 2 years in the making. I have been able to successfully have all students facing forward in the past but with the permanent fixtures and close quarters I always seem to have bruises up and down my thighs. This plan should be able to allow me to get from seat 2 to seat 19 in the shortest amount of steps... and no bruising. This set up also allows me to bring in more desks next to 28 and 1 if I really need to.

"The best room arrangement allows the teach to get from any student to any other student in the fewest possible steps."- Fred Jones

Now, I've actually worked this floor plan out and when I am up at the school tomorrow for our Cheerleading Lock-In (Happy thoughts my way please!) I will post pictures and talk more on the subject. As for now, fooooooooood!

"Teachers need walkways. These are not little, narrow walkways, but rather, boulevards." -Fred Jones

Mrs. Callahan

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Summer Planning

Oh Summer...

How you seem to slip by faster and faster every year. Damn you! Luckily, I am about to spend my 3rd year in the same classroom, in the same grade, teaching the same stuff. I feel I am very lucky in that aspect. I no longer have to worry really about what to do (lesson planning, lesson delivery, grading, etc) but I am able to fine tune HOW to do it. It is AwEsOmE!

Teachers report back to school in about 4 weeks and since my cheerleaders do a community service fundraiser to help the teacher settle back in, I have to be ready to go ahead of time.

First, I wanted to start off with what and how I have been planning all summer. Besides the good 'ole World Wide Web I have three things with me all summer.

1. My binders of all that is science. They are organized by 6 weeks (red being 1st semester and yellow being 2nd semester), then inside they are organized by unit during the 6 weeks. I put in these all worksheets, district curriculum "road maps", projects, foldables, etc. Anything that I have or have thought of giving the kids the past 2 years are in these guys. Thank you mentor teacher for the idea!

2. I have my handy dandy super low tech teacher planner. As I will explain and you will see later that I LOVE technology... I am a technology fiend. BUT, I LOVE my planner. Reason being, the sticky notes. It is so so easy to rip them off and throw them away and move them around and make a quick note. Much easier than finding your computer, pulling up the file, manipulating it, re-saving, etc. I could be wrong here but this has worked very well for me for two years now.

3. ~ This website literally has two years and then some of thumb drives, emails, electronic lesson plans (both daily and weekly), and pictures. Reason for this- I once had a teacher friend tell me a horror story of having 3 years worth of lessons and such on one single mega thumb drive and one day :POOF: jacked. Gotta love our sticky fingered pre-teens. But anyways I suggest some sort of cloud type website. (DropBox, Cloud, whatever) to back up all electronic files. There is a free version of DropBox but it only has 3GB of space which is basically one small thumb drive. I pay $9.99 a month for the upgraded and have 100GB of space. Totally worth it to me. Check them out!

Hope that helped for summer planning. Throughout this next week I have cheerleading camp up at the school and will be staying to organize my classroom. There will be pictures and posts to come!

"People who work and put in effort always achieve more than those who do not."- Harry Wong

Mrs. Callahan =)