Archive | August 2015

A Recipe for Teaching Routines using a Secret Ingredient

Your first week of school sets the tone for the whole year.  It is critical that you set standards that you expect them to follow. Each day this first week, you will teach students a new routine they are expected to follow.  You will carefully model and practice these routines this week.

Day 1 Entry Routine

The first routine you will teach to the point of perfection is the entry routine.  I’d suggest working on this upon their entry after their first recess/nutrition break.

Meet them where they hang up their jackets and backpacks.  Model using someone’s belongings how and where you want them to place their footwear and outerwear.

Ask for questions and if none, have a student model what you just did.  Repeat this with a few more students until it is perfect. If there are errors, that’s okay, we are learning together. Ask students to point out the errors that were made.  Have them try again and then eventually with the whole class.

This is something you can work on each day that first week of school.

Now model how they will now proceed to their desks, group area etc.  Again, ask for questions, comments.

Have a student recreate what you just modeled.  Was it perfect? If not, model again and have the student try again.

Try with a few more students and then eventually the whole class. Again, once perfection is achieved, you should practice this each day this week at entry.

Day 2 Implementation of Reward System 

Upon morning entry, bring a handful of your Secret Ingredient into the entry area.  Your secret ingredient is a stack of 2 inch by 2 inch reproduced really, really happy faces.

Hand them out to students, without saying a word, who are following your entry routine to perfection.  Just smile as you hand them out, and if questioned, reply we will talk about it in the classroom.

Once everyone is in the classroom and seated, ask students who received the happy face tickets why they think they got one.

Once this has been established, explain that students will put their name on the back of the ticket and place it in the weekly draw bin.

I’d suggest, for the first week, have one draw at the end of each day and then the following week move onto a weekly draw of five tickets for each day of the week. Have students place their hand into the prize bin without looking to get their prize or they will take forever trying to decide.

You will now find that your students will be watching for those tickets in your hand at every single entry so be sure to have them handy. You will be amazed at what your students will do for that happy face ticket.

This reward system can be used to teach every one of your routines this first week of school.  You’ll be amazed at how smoothly everything flows for you!  The key to success is only reward perfection and reward consistently.


Planning for the First Day and Week

The countdown is really on now! The first week of school is an exhausting and daunting prospect to plan and organize for.

Your room may or may not be ready at this point, but keep going full speed ahead because very shortly you’ll have to stop organizing and begin to plan for that first day and for the rest of that very, very long first week of school.

Funny how the organizing of your room is so fun, easy and stress free, but the planning for the first day and week is kind of like going to the dentist.  You know you need to, but you hate to and you try your best to put it off.  Unfortunately planning for the first week cannot get put off, so get planning!.

When planning that first day, keep everything low key. This day will be your one and only true honeymoon day for the whole year so try to enjoy it.

You will probably naively think you have a great class right up to the final ring of day one’s bell.  If this day was not a honeymoon, then fasten your seat belt because you are going to be in for a very rough ride. This only happened once in my career and luckily it all worked out. No, the non honeymoon student did not move away, he just needed some good teacher loving!

For that first day, plan simple things they can do at their desks that will take them some time to complete. Seriously!  Give very detailed instructions for what you expect and provide a good model for them to follow.

A great first day activity is providing them with an 11 x 17 model of a non gender person to colour with what they are wearing the first day of school.

A great second day activity is providing them with a card stock weight paper of their name in bubble letters traced in black marker to colour in rainbow letters.

These are two activities they can work on throughout the week during free moments. These can be displayed in the classroom together for whole year.

For the week, have 2 or 3 really good read aloud books choosen that are kind of light and fun, but engaging. One that I have enjoyed reading on the first day of school is The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. It’s heartwarming story about a young Raccoon’s first day of school and he is really afraid to leave his mom. I’ve included a storylineonline link with Barbara Bain reading the story for another fun way to enjoy the book again later in the week.

I would also suggest having a chapter book ready to go.  After lunch break, to help everyone decompress, is the perfect time to read a chapter book.  A few I have started the school year with are Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones from the Bailey School Kids Series or James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.

Lastly, have a few basic numeration math lessons ready to go, a few fun spelling games or activities, plan to have students write in their journals daily for this week and establish some classroom rules with the students as a group that are posted.

The pace of the first day and week will be critical to your survival.  You will want to think snail’s pace.  If the pace of your lesson, instructions, transitions etc. seem exceptionally slow, painfully slow, you are probably going at a perfect pace. If you find yourself wanting to speed things up, DON’T. There will lots of time later for a faster paced day.

Good luck with your planning and remember to keep it simple and low key for that first week.

The Kissing Hand

Physical arrangement of classroom

Hi there! Wow, this is a really scary time of year for teachers.  You get this sinking feeling in your gut as each day ticks by, drawing closer and closer to……. Day 1.

Everyone is thinking about getting into their classroom and setting up.  It is something you want to do, but don’t want to do all at the same time.

When you do actually go in, it is terrifying because you are admitting that summer holidays are actually coming to a screeching halt very quickly.  Well, you can only put that day off for so long, so just go and do it!

Hopefully, you have read my earlier blog about keeping it simple as you set up your classroom.

As you physically start placing desks and chairs, tables, activity centers etc. be sure to think about traffic flow throughout the classroom.

You want to be sure to again, keep it simple and organized so students have a smooth easy access to all areas of the classroom. For example. If you have a group meeting area, make sure all students can get there quickly and easily without having to dodge around cumbersome furniture.

The way in which your students enter the classroom is also important.  Ensure that the entry area is open and welcoming and that students can easily flow into their seating area easily.

I’ve seen classrooms where students need to start zigzagging around desks and other obstacles as soon as they enter the classroom. This will instantly create tension and frustration at the very start of the day. Not a good way to start the day. This open and inviting entry way will help to set the tone of calm.

When arranging student desks. ensure students have enough room behind them to move their chair in and out without bumping the desk behind them.  You also want to ensure there is room for yourself or your students to move freely behind their desk and chair area. Think about how annoying it is to have people walk by and bump your chair in a restaurant, staff room etc. Everyone wants to feel they have their own personal space that is safe from intrusion.

Well, that’s it for now folks! Good luck and hopefully I’ve given you some food for thought as you set up your classroom. Talk to you soon!

Keep it simple

Hi there nervous, excited, but rested teachers! I thought I’d start with setting up your classroom.  The more you have in your classroom out in view, the more cluttered it will appear.  The more cluttered your classroom, the more stimulation there will be for your students.  The more stimulated your students, the more active they will be.  The more active they will be, the louder, less focused, and less ready they will be to learn from you and each other.  So keep this in mind when setting up your classroom.  I know it is tempting to put out all the bells and whistles to try to impress ‘others’ (ie fellow teachers, administrators, parents etc.)  but DON’T.

Years ago, I remember walking into a fellow teacher’s classroom for the first time and I was completely overwhelmed with stimulation.  Every nook and cranny, table, corner, cupboard, shelf, desk had something on it, in it, under it, beside it.  I had to force myself to keep my eyes on her during our conversation.  It was incredibly difficult and took every ounce of concentration I had.  I felt profoundly sorry for her little primary aged students.  I had to ask myself, how could they possibly spend a whole day in this classroom without feeling completely exhausted by the end of the day.

You want to create a sense of calm when anyone enters your room.  People will actually feel it when they enter your room.  This sense of calm will help you in every aspect of your day when trying to keep a classroom of little people and yourself organized for the whole day.  So….. keep it simple!