FOR SOME GREAT IDEAS ON EVERY
ASPECT OF CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT, SEE THE NEW 2ND EDITION OF
- WHAT NEW TEACHERS REALLY WANT TO KNOW
- THE ROOM ENVIRONMENT & THE FIRST WEEKS
- THE CURRICULUM & THE STUDENTS
- STUDENTS WHO HAVE SPECIAL NEEDS
- HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR SANITY
CROSS-AGE STUDY BUDDIES
This is an excellent way to strengthen skills in older
students while building skills in younger children.
- At my school, I have long been involved in cross-age Study
Buddies. When done correctly, this is not an on and off merely
fun experience. At the beginning of every year, my students who
are in the intermediate grades, pair up with kindergarten students.
- In the first week, we go to the room early to help the little
ones learn how to load up backpacks, walk through the lunchline(!),
get to the playground after lunch,etc. In these days of limited
help in the classes, every extra hand is greatly appreciated
that first week. This is especially critical for children coming
to school with no English (better than 50% of my campus kindergarten.).
- We then start going every week. I recommend the same day and
time each week to build rapport and to emphasize the importance
of the learning time. By this time in October we are at the point
of helping children one-on-one with counting, ABCs, writing their
own names, gross and fine motor skills, etc.
- Each week there is a very simple book for my children to read
to the kindergarten kids. Then the two Buddies color it and the
big Buddy helps to look for the letter of the week or a color
word, etc. In our case, my buddy and I have food each week for
these children that ties into the unit.
- I believe that the hour we spend doing this weekly is time
well-spent. Like we all do, I have kids in my class who are reading
at the first grade level, don't know their multiplication tables,
etc. Yet, when we go to Study Buddies these children know as
much as every other one of their peers. It is a powerful boost
to their self-esteem! Likewise, it has proven to be a wonderful
motivator for discipline problems or the children not completing
work. And it is always wonderful to have a call come in or a
note left in my box asking for a specific child to come spend
a few minutes of recess or spare time with the little ones. Suddenly
children who normally aren't chosen for things, make the honor
roll, etc. are THE ONES. Parents of my students love this. I
cannot say enough about how this has boosted the morale of my
- The other side of the issue is that every week there is someone
special for the kindergarten child to be with one-on-one. We
encourage talking the whole time. Just lately, I noticed some
shy children starting to smile or ask for help.
It is not too late in the year to start this kind
of program at your school. The benefits are enormous! Just keep in
mind, this is a tennis shoe type of day.
MITCHELL K-6 SCHOOL
A twist in making and displaying the classroom rules.
- chart paper
- butcher paper
- Tell students to brainstorm on their paper 3 important rules
- Allow them to share. Focus on stating rules positively.
"Don't call people names." could be "Respect
others rights and property."
- Make a list of rules on chart paper. This is your rough
- Tell the students you want them to come up with 5-6 general
rules that will cover all of their ideas. (See examples below).
They need to agree to these rules.
- After the rules are agreed upon, tell them you will write
a final copy on poster paper for them to view and sign tomorrow.
- After school, write the rules in this format:
- Class Constitution
- We, the students in Mrs./Mr. ____________ class, in
order to behave in an appropriate manner, agree to abide
by the following rules:
- List rules agreed upon and signed this _____ day of
- Students sign the poster at the bottom.
- The next day, go over the class constitution. Have the class
read it together. Discuss each rule and what it covers.
- An added activity: Have the students copy the class constitution
on to lined paper. As they are doing this, you can have them
come up and sign the poster. Discuss the significance of signing
- I have mounted the poster on to brown butcher paper torn
around the edges to make it look old. Put it up in a prominent
place in your room and refer to it often.
- As new students come, have them sign the poster after they
have read it.
- Examples of general rules:
- Keep my desk neat and floor clean.
- Respect others.
- Ask for help if I need it.
- Complete my homework neatly and correctly each night
and return it to school each day.
- Use class time wisely to work on assignments.
- Listen when Mrs. _______ or a student is speaking to
TEAGUE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER GRADE
FOR CLASSROOM PARTICIPATION: AN IMPORTANT LESSON FOR TEACHERS
Recently, a number of
teachers have written to me asking about grading for classroom
participation. I have conducted a good deal of research which
showed that this is a tremendous disservice and unfair situation
to a great many of your students.
as a result of their leadership personality traits. Think
about your class--students who have a strong leadership personality
enjoy raising their hand (even if they consistently have
the incorrect answer). Those who have a weak leadership personality
trait are extremely reluctant to raise their hand--even if
they know the correct answer. This does not mean that these
students are less on-task than those who continually raise
their hand. Therefore, if you give points for classroom participation,
are are really rewarding those with a strong leadership personality
style and punishing those with a weak one.
The following is a summary
of my research in this area, if you want to know more about
leadership in students. It comes from my work with cooperative
learning groups, but the concepts of leadership are directly
applicable to student participation in the classroom. The
following material is adapted from my book The
New-Teacher Toolbox: Strategies for a Great First Year.
THE STUDENT LEADERSHIP
Leadership is a personality
trait. All of us are on a "leadership" continuum.
At one end, there are those that thoroughly enjoy and search
out leadership roles. At the other end, there are those that
actively seek a non-participatory status when forcibly involved
with a group. Think back to your group work experiences in
college courses, or your association with committees in your
own school. Did you naturally "take over" the leadership
of the group? Did you take an active, but participatory role?
Did you sit back and take an absolute minimal role in the
discussions of the group? It was your personal leadership
style that served as the greatest determining factor as to
amount of your group participation.
To briefly explain this
phenomenon, during a study of Cooperative Learning in the
classroom, I videotaped small group work during four different
Cooperative Learning units. The videotapes were then analyzed,
and the types of leadership shown within the various small
working groups was explored. Each student was classified
by predetermined criteria as either a "Leader," a "Follower" or
a "Non-participant." The following are an explanation
of the categories of leadership and leadership roles:
STUDENTS SHOW FOUR TYPES OF LEADERSHIP:
student is concerned with the process--keeping others
on task, getting supplies, etc.
student offers a new idea to the group (versus simply
answering someone's question with a research result).
LEADERSHIP--The student gives praise or encouragement
to a member of the group.
student gives negative feedback, or creates off-the-topic
humor to disrupt the process, even momentarily.
STUDENTS TAKE THREE DIFFERENT LEADERSHIP
students "run" all facets of the group, and
initiate virtually all dialogue between members.
students readily answer questions and participate, but
usually only at the instigation of one of the leaders.
students never offer information unless asked; they never
volunteer for anything. However, they normally will do
whatever task is assigned to them.
Amazingly, it was
discovered that the only students who ever took significant
leadership roles within the group, were those students
who had been categorized as "leaders." "Followers" sometimes
showed some leadership characteristics, and always at
the instigation of the leaders. "Non-participants" never
took any leadership roles; they answered questions when
asked while using the shortest possible answers, and
they quietly did their work without any interaction with
What was fundamentally
interesting, and most important when determining Cooperative
Learning group roles, was that a student leader might
show leadership in "task" areas one day, or "intellectual" or "social" areas
the next. The leaders varied in their leadership roles
depending on what other leader happened to be in their
group on that particular day. However, in all cases,
all leadership roles were fulfilled by those students
previously characterized as leaders. A student classified
as a "follower" or a "non-participant" never
took a leadership role within the group.
of these findings are central to the development of a
good Cooperative Learning lesson or unit. For if only
those students with personality styles that enjoy and
seek leadership take leadership roles, then the previous
espoused concept of passing around group leadership becomes
increasingly problematic. For if you make a student with
a "non-participant" personality style into
the group leader for that session, at least one of three
possibilities will probably result:
The students with
leadership personalities will take over the group process.
The students with
leadership personalities will exert their internal need
for leadership by sabotaging the group in some way, often
unconsciously. (See the description of "Coercive
Leadership" above )
student forced into leadership will be so uncomfortable
and distressed at this role, that either nothing will
get accomplished, or he will allow those who enjoy leadership
to take over the group.
In all situations,
if a "non-participant" type of student is artificially
forced into a leadership position, the group will not
function in the way that you originally planned.
Rather than incorporating
predetermined group "leaders," a potential
solution to this problem is to list tasks, or jobs, for
the group to fill, and then let the natural group dynamics
sort them out. For instance, you may tell a group that
they need a spokesperson, a runner, a secretary, et cetera,
and let them figure out who will do what job. You will
find that in most cases, the group will distribute its
leadership and task roles within minutes.
As an additional
anecdote to this issue of group leadership, I had fun
with the results of an extra cooperative learning lesson,
one not included in the above study. In this lesson,
among the various groups constructed, I ensured that
three strictly homogeneous leadership groups were formed:
one of all leaders, one of all followers, and one of
all non-participants. The results were at times, humorous.
The leaders group argued vehemently about who was going
to do what task and cover what area. Finally, the students
picked sections of the project out of a hat, and each
worked on his own material--with no group cooperation
or interaction. Since they were told that there was to
be a group grade, many of the members covered areas assigned
to other students, in addition to their own, figuring
that they could do a better job! The followers had the
best functioning unit, for within their own group, some
had more leadership traits than others, and a natural
hierarchy developed of leaders and followers. The non-participants
each worked on the entire task, each on their own, with
no feedback or discussion among the members of the group.
PACOIMA MIDDLE SCHOOL
LOS ANGELES, CA
- circle cardboards from pizzas
- On one side of a pizza cardboard circle (poster board works
also but not as well), divide the area into a desired number of
sections by dividing the circle (across the diameter, like a pie).
- In each section print the desired information or questions and
then on the back of each section write the corresponding answer.
- On both sides of a clothespin, near the clip end, write the
answers to the information or questions.
- Place the clothespins in a plastic bag and attach to the circle.
- The students read the information or question, they select the
clothespin with the correct answer from the bag and clip it to
the edge of the circle near the corresponding question (a version
- For a self check the student can flip over the cardboard and
see if they have put the correct answer (clothespin).
- This can be placed at a center or for when students are "done" with
all their work. Students can also be the developers.
- A few examples for the different areas:
- math: multiplication (all the 9 facts on one), addition,
subtraction or division facts; fractions, decimals and percents
(pictures and the fraction or decimal and percent equivalents);
numerals and expanded form; digital and analog time; pictures
of coins and amounts; angles and degrees; sin, co-sin and tangent
- language arts/ English: antonyms or synonyms; vocabulary
and definitions; authors and books; upper and lower case letters
of the alphabet; abbreviations;
- science: chemical equations (ions); animals and kingdoms,
- health: organs and functions; foods and food groups;
- social studies: people and inventions; dates and events;
states, capitals and abbreviations (countries also);
- Foreign languages: vocabulary and the English translation
- definitions and terminology for any content area would work
HANCOCK MIDDLE SCHOOL
A SCHOOL/CLASS RECOGNITION PROJECT
The concept is based on the ideas of "Pay It Forward" and
blue ribbon awards.
- royal blue ribbon, the 3/4' works best and is sold on spools
- small gold safety pins, be sure they are the kind that have a
loop (or a curl) scissors
- thimble-you will REALLY appreciate having this
- zip lock type bags, gallon for class and quart sized for 3 ribbons
- optional: colorful or cheery computer paper, to write a personal
message or instructions
- optional: a children's book to illustrate kindness, selfless
or related ideas
- Pre-teaching activities: Submit the idea in writing or verbally
to the principal, assistant principal and if possible your team
leader, it is crucial to have the support of your administrator
and team for the success of this project. Once you have the go
ahead, enlist help to cut, place on the safety pin (like the AIDS
and Cancer ribbons) count and sort into bags per student and class.
On a Friday or Monday present the idea to the class to gage interest
- Open with a short brainstorm discussion or children's story
about kindness, recognition or other related topics.
- After a few minutes, share a brief story of someone that you
want to recognize and why.
- Then call on a few students to briefly share similar stories.
- Then after they have ownership of the idea of recognition, pass
out blue ribbons to the students individually and help them put
them on if needed.
- Another way is to start with 1-5 students and individually recognize
them and have those students in turn recognize another student
and so on until the whole class has been recognized.
- Try to say something to each student, but in the interest of
time a whole class statement is fine.
- After they are wearing their ribbons, have them think about
someone that they would like to recognize for their positive contributions.
- Then pass out the individual zip lock bags with 3 ribbons to
- The students recognize one person and present them with a ribbon,
then the other two ribbons that are left in the bag.
- The recognized person then recognizes another person and presents
them a ribbon and the remaining ribbon in the bag for them to pass
- To adapt this activity for the whole school: With the administrator's
approval, make ribbons for each student in the whole school-enlist
help for this if possible.
- Have a student from your class pass out the ribbon bags to each
teacher in the school, and be sure to have the students recognize
everyone on the campus with a presentation of a ribbon, and possibly
one to pass on. You might want to discuss this project in detail
with the faculty in writing (on the cheery paper) or e-mail, a
brief presentation at a faculty meeting is also good. You may also
want to have the students in your class create a mini-explanation
and type it up to copy/distribute with the ribbons.
- Upper elementary learners can write journal entries about topics
relating to the project including the person they gave a ribbon
to and why, personal reflections/opinions about the project. Lower
elementary can create a picture and a sentence, or dictate what
is in the picture.
- The student excitement and enthusiasm for this project is contagious!
Not to mention the parents and the rest of the school. It is amazing
to see virtually a whole school wearing blue ribbons and a smile.
- Submitted by,
ALLEN ISD SCHOOL
This gives the students a sense of belonging and also pride in
- construction paper
- star tracers
- pencils, crayons, markers
- Have each child color and decorate a star with their first name
printed across the middle.
- Hang just outside the classroom with a banner that reads "Stars
of Room 3" or "Bright Stars of Room 3".
- Tell the students every single day, that they are your "stars". Tell
them that you've never had a class of students who shine as brightly
as they do. Make them proud to be in your classroom. Make
them proud to be one of the classroom family.
- I've noticed that students become very protective of their classroom
family and take more pride in keeping the classroom neat and tidy. There
are fewer 'put-downs' and fewer problems because they are all taking
responsibility for being 'shining stars'. This activity works for
all elementary grades K to 6. The older students will spend
longer decorating their stars but they will all be very proud to
have them displayed.
- Submitted by,
Education Assistant, no school listed
KAMLOOPS, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA
SET-UP FOR A CENTERS-BASED EARLY ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM
- If you have a center based classroom, as is my kindergarten class,
I suggest first listing all of your centers on a piece of paper.
- Next, draw a sketch of the outline of your room on another sheet.
Like redecorating a room in your own house, cut out little squares,
label them and place them in your paper classroom. This way you
won't forget anything, and it won't take any time to rearrange
- Take note of things that block other things...does your room
flow, can you see the children from all of the angles?
Believe me, I am not at all artistic. This can be done very simplistically...not
to scale or anything elaborate like that. Try to use all sides of
furniture as possibilities; for example, I turned an old bookshelf
around to use the front shelf part as part of my home center and
am corking the back of it to use as a makeshift, child accessible
bulletin board that will act as the back wall of my writing center!
Just like in a house, see where outlets are to use for computers
and listening centers. This year, I will incorporate my listening
center with my library. I am using my old love seat from home to
act as the connecting piece of furniture to use in my new "quiet
space" in my classroom.
Check where sinks are (if you have them) or floor space rather than
carpet space is. Put your paint tables and sand and water tables
where water is accessible for quick clean ups! Have your circle time
space and your block center on or near carpeted space so that it
will curb the noise!
ASSOCIATED HEBREW SCHOOLS
THORNHILL, ONTARIO, CANADA
The primary goal of this plan is to encourage and facilitate parental
involvement in the elementary classroom. Since there is no one reason
for nonparticipation I am advancing several approaches that seek
to address a variety of obstacles that parents face in becoming involved
in their child's education. I'm also interested in ideas that others
may have on this topic, so please e-mail me with your feedback and
Start Up Calls
Spend the week before school starts calling each parent to introduce
your self, emphasize their importance from the start and open lines
of communication. Invite them to a parent meeting and take this time
to discuss scheduling a meeting for when the most parents can attend.
Establish a calling web in which each parent is responsible for
calling two or three other parents to notify of special events or
news. Attempt to set up so bilingual parents will call those that
don't speak English well. This will help to address communication
issues for those who don't read. Designate a neighbor to inform those
with out phones.
Beginning of the Year Questionnaire
Send a questionnaire home to parents on the first day of school.
Ask them these kind of questions:
- Tell me about your child, what are his or her interests?
- What do you think is important for your child learn this year?
- Is there anything you especially want me to know about your
- How would you like to be involved in your child's education
Have box mounted outside of class door for student or parent suggestions.
Let it be known it is perfectly fine to make anonymous suggestions
or to send them in envelopes with students.
Thursday Folder Notes
Send home a folder on Thursdays with student work in one side,
school communication on the other side. Have a sheet that is permanently
included for hand written comments and communication between parent
Each month send home a calendar that highlights times when parental
participation would be encouraged on a school and class level. Include
times in your daily schedule when parents are free to drop in, perhaps
a study hall at the end of the day or a reading time when they can
come listen to readers or read themselves. Invite parents to lunch,
recess, library times, lab time and special activities. Try to schedule
at least one thing a month that will occur in the evening (for working
parents). Have an authors tea where students share works they've
published. Set up an art museum for parents to come see. Have parents
let you know if they have an idea to add. A calendar will give parents
on a tight schedule an opportunity to plan in advance and give them
a variety of options to choose from.
Have one evening a week marked on calendar when you will either
be available in the class room or available over the phone to speak
with parents. Periodically change the time so you will be available
to all parents at sometime.
Rotating Homeroom Parent
Have the homeroom parent position change each new nine week period.
This will give more parents an opportunity to participate so that
the work load will be less likely to fall on one or two persons.
Weekly News Letters
Send home a news letter in Thursday folders. Try to incorporate
the help of a bilingual parent or coworker if necessary. Use news
letter to thank parents and acknowledge their contributions and inform
them of any new developments.
In the case of parents who don't respond to written communication,
periodically call them so they will know you are aware of them and
care about their input. If they do not speak English enlist the help
of their "web" caller or a member of the school staff who
speaks their language.
Bulletin Board Feature
Use a specific bulletin board to highlight individual students,
their families, and cultural heritage on a one or two week rotating
basis. Encourage the parents to help the student plan the board.
Send each family a note about it with suggestions (that they aren't
limited to) and a sign up schedule. Be prepared with plans to assist
students that have parents who don't get involved.
Consider all family situations in homework assignments. Give weekly
or monthly packets so a family can be flexible in designating time
to work on it. Include activities that can be accomplished with parental
input such as family histories, surveys, and projects.
Parent Book Shelf
Have books, even if only a few, available to parents on a specifically
designated shelf in your room Include books on parenting, homework
and study skills, and what ever the need is in the class.
JEFFERSON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
STANDARDS AND BENCHMARKS AND THE CLASSROOM TEACHER
First of all, you need an up-to-date copy of the curriculum for
your grade or course
Standards, benchmarks, and indicators are becoming common in the
world of educational jargon, but are we as teachers dealing well
with the changes we are expected to make in the classroom. Many states
are requiring state assessments based on the state curriculum. Here
are six helpful hints in dealing with the new curriculum.
1. Look at the curriculum you must teach. Group like benchmarks
by looking for a common topic where such a group could be taught.
For example map skills might include learning the vocabulary, creating
and using of a variety of maps, and identification of symbols on
a map. (Concept: There is a place for everything.)
2. Next it would be beneficial to see if there is an overlapping
with another subject. There is no need to teach the same concept
twice. For instance, math might be covering scale drawing. Figuring
the distance between two places might easily be taught at this time.
(Concept: Kill two birds with one stone.)
3. Remember your activities MUST FIT INTO THE CURRICULUM. It is
not effective to have a pet project that does not fit. One of the
major obstacles to successful teaching is doing this backwards. (i.e.,
choosing an area of study and trying to "stick" the benchmarks
into it). Be willing to let go of units that no longer fit the curriculum.
(Concept: Only if the shoe fits, wear it.)
4. Understand the depth that is to be taught at your grade level
and teach for mastery of that level. Some teachers cannot find middle
ground. If it is introductory, then teach for mastery of the introductory
concepts. If it mastery, then teach for mastery of the entire concept.
(Concept: Water seeks its own level.)
5. Teach to the curriculum; do not teach to the test. If the testing
genuinely tests the curriculum, then teaching the curriculum will
make your students successful. Teaching the test gives limited understanding
and is not responsible teaching. (Concept: Don't miss the boat.)
6. Incorporate fun activities. Just because the curriculum is well
defined does not mean it will not fit into fun units. I teach how
to buy cars when I teach economic concepts--think about it--when
you buy a car you pay all kinds of taxes; it requires licensing and
fees; understanding of supply/demand is necessary, acquiring savings,
obtaining loans,etc. Can you think of anything an 8th grader would
love to study more? Well, there are a few. But the point is the fun
unit fits the curriculum. It also put the level of understanding
into immersion because we pretend to buy the car at the lot (salesmen
meet with the students and fill out a contract), loan officers actually
review loan applications, etc. (Concept: Learning is fun.)
Okay, so are you tired of the cliches yet? Well, I stuck them in
as reminders of the main points. If you work to do these things,
teaching to standards and benchmarks won't be so bad. If fact, you
know exactly what your responsibility is and that can make teaching
- Submitted by,
ABE HUBERT MIDDLE SCHOOL
GARDEN CITY, KS