Sunday, September 14, 2014

Classroom Management Tips and Tricks

Classroom management is the key to being an effective teacher, to achieving student success, and to setting up a productive and efficient classroom environment.

While there are a number of practices that work together to create a strong classroom management foundation, there are a few fundamental basics. Teacher preparation and organization, engaging lessons, building relationships, well-established routines and procedures for the students, and brain breaks or other related movement instructional strategies.

Preparation and Organization
According to Robert Marzano, classroom organization is one of the 11 factors that influence student achievement. By being organized and prepared, teachers maximize instructional time, minimize the frequency of behavior problems and chaos, and create a safe and positive classroom environment.

Organize your books and materials by month or theme. You are more likely to put your materials away and in a place where you can find them if you have them organized by a specific category. Being well-organized cuts down on lesson prep time as well. You can quickly and easily find the materials you need when getting your lessons ready.

I used plastic tubs with lids to store all of my materials by theme and concept. I stored by books in a separate area, but also by theme and concept.

Here is another great way to store your books and materials. This idea came from Mrs. Hoffer's Spot. She organizes her materials by month. The top bucket holds all of her "stuff" for that month and the bottom bucket holds the books that go with it. You can read the full post here.

Use clear plastic containers and labels and store all of your materials separately. 

This idea came from The Clutter-Free Classroom. Hang a dry erase board or create a wipe-off space to record end of the day reminders such as changes in transportation. 

For more organizational tips and tricks and storage ideas, check out my Pinterest board Classroom Organization

Engaging Lessons
I found this quote from the blog post The Boy Friendly Classroom: Making Time for Movement and thought "Wow!" this picture sums it all up. If we do not provide our students with lessons that engage them and keep them moving and thinking then they will find other things to do... oftentimes things that disrupt instruction and learning. Novelty is key. Rotate techniques, strategies, and activities when students seem to be loosing focus or interest.

Procedures and Routines
When introducing procedures and routines never assume that students know everything. You will have to model the exact behaviors you want to see from your students. When teaching procedures and routines you have to scaffold your instruction. Model the procedure or routine you want them to learn. Practice it with them. Have them practice on their own and with each other. Then slowly send them out on their own to do independently.

Never assume that any procedure, routine, or task is so small or trivial that it does not require modeling and group practice.
For example: You must model and practice how to enter the room, how to walk to the carpet, how to leave the carpet, how to line up, how to stand in line, how to work at each center, how to listen to a story, how to turn and talk to a partner, how to throw something away, how to get materials, how to go to the restroom, how to get a drink, etc.

These pictures came from a Debbie Diller workshop. First, the teacher modeled, then the teacher had the students practice with partners. 
I Can... and anchor charts are another great way to scaffold teaching procedures and routines. 

Some routines and procedures take more modeling and practice than others. Don't allow yourself to be easily angered or frustrated by this. Keep practicing, recognize the correct behaviors, praise their efforts, and give lots of reminders. Do not give up or allow them to perform routines and procedures incorrectly because you are tired or frustrated by it all. This will not make things better, nor will it ease your anger and frustration at the end of the day when their is chaos and mess. Slow and steady wins the race... just keep practicing, praising, and reminding. They will get there.  

Making Time for Brain Breaks and Movement
Break your direct instructional teaching time up with brain  breaks and movement activities that are strategic, purposeful, and instructionally focused.

Brain breaks are great for in-between activities. I used them in between read-alouds and lessons, or before we lined up, etc.

I used brain break ideas from Deanna Jump's All Set? You Bet? Classroom Management Transitions and Routines. This unit also contains direct links to videos and songs that incorporate movement. You can find more movement videos and songs on my Pinterest board Music/Movement/Videos.

I also used these from Third Grade Thoughts.

Classroom cheers are another way to praise students and get them moving. I used these fun cheers with my students. You can check them out on TPT here

Turn and Talk is another great strategy that allows students the opportunity to move.

Transitions are another great time to get students moving. Check out this great post Transition Time...It's Like Hammer Time for the Classroom for some great transition activities. Some examples include counting down, singing songs, repeating pattern movements, and movement activities. 

Education to the Core has some great tips for transitions too. 

When shhhhhhhhhhh doesn't work, use attention grabbers to bring students back from turn and talk, to get them quiet so one person can talk, or when they all start talking at once. I used these attention grabber cards. If you are interested in them, you can find them here

For more on the brain and ways to incorporate purposeful movement into your day, check out this post from Fun in PREK-1 & Kinder
This making time for movement reminder came from Jessica Fredrickson. You can get it for free here

Building Relationships
One of Marzano's nine instructional strategies for effective teaching and learning is reinforcing effort and providing recognition. Effort and recognition speak highly to the attitudes and beliefs of students. Building relationships with your students contributes to better classroom behavior and creates a more learning-friendly classroom environment.

Build better relationships with your students by:
Getting to know them- take time to talk to students about their lives outside of the classroom
Individualize- individualize the curriculum and find creative ways to help each student learn the material
Watch what you say- avoid using harsh words and sarcasm with your students
Keep trying to reach your students- set clear expectations, keep your own emotions in check, and enforce classroom rules, procedures, and routines positively
Sometimes students need additional time to calm down or adjust to new activities. Crayons and Lesson Plans shared a great post about using a "calming caddy" with her students. Learn more about how she uses it and what she include in it here.
For students who are easily distracted, consider using a visual timer, novelty, giving the child a work space with a divider, using headphones, using tape to clearly define their space on the carpet, and allowing the student to stand up behind the class when they are seated on the carpet. Read more about these tips from Teach123 - tips for teaching elementary school here.

Relationships make a difference in the way students perform in school. They can also make the steps needed in giving students what they need in the classroom a little easier.

Positive Reinforcement 
Rather than give out stickers or use a treasure box, I used incentives such as singing or moving to an extra song, rubbing "smellies" on their hands (flavored smelly chapstick), adding a pom-pom to their cup, classroom cheers and chants, and reward coupons such as work in your socks, bring a stuffed animal to school, sit in a special chair, etc.

I used these great reward coupons from Mel D-Seusstastic.You can check them out in her TPT store here

This post merely skims the surface of classroom management and how to establish it in the classroom. For more ideas and suggestions check out my Classroom Management Pinterest board. I am always pinning new ideas to it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Halloween Read-Alouds

I was in Barnes and Nobel tonight and it got me thinking about my favorite books to read in October. Here are some of my old favorites and a few new ones.
This David Carter pop-up bug book is one of my favorite in the series. The bugs all use fun little familiar Halloween sayings. 

Any book by Todd Parr is a favorite. This book is a great springboard for talking about fears. As always, Parr writes about feelings and events that all little ones can relate to. My favorite example from the book is being scared when shopping for new underwear, but not being scared when wearing it on your head. 

I love the riddle pop-up books in this series. This one contains fun Halloween riddles. 

This story is so cute! Skeleton finds the witches list of what's for dinner so he thinks the witches want to eat him. Silly Skeleton. The witches want to have you for dinner, not eat  you. This book reminds me of the story A Turkey for Thanksgiving. 

A few fun counting books...

Don't forget the oldies but goodies...


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pre-K Spaces and Places

After reading lots of emails from followers combined with my own thoughts about my new job, I have decided to continue on blogging, but from more of a PK standpoint. I hope that a lot of what I will share and post about will still be able to be carried over to kindergarten. At this point, I am planning to make a weekly post related to one or more of the following areas - classroom environment, behavior management, instruction, lesson activities, curriculum, and literature response activities. Please feel free to make requests concerning any areas you are looking for more information or ideas on. Email me at

For the first week and since it is still the beginning of school, I decided to go back to the basics- PK space and place- the PK classroom environment.

In my district, we are encouraging teachers to think differently about their classroom setup. We are suggesting that they arrange their classroom tables in small group center areas all around the room instead of all together in the center of the room. We are trying to move our PK teachers away from primarily teaching in whole group and toward more small group instruction where the teacher moves throughout the room and to the students for small group teaching.

You might also consider giving your students free choice in where they sit and who they sit by. If you feel the need to assign seats, I suggest using small name plate cards with the student's picture and first name only on the name plate. I also recommend laminating the name plate card and then using sticky-back Velcro to adhere it to the table so that it can be easily moved to other tables around the room.

Here are a few examples I found online from various blogs and websites that demonstrate what I am suggesting. I have also included pictures from classrooms in my district.

The first few pictures came from the blog Pre-K Tweets. You can find these pictures in a post titled Fall Room Tour! here.
You can see how the centers are arranged with 2-3 sides using furniture, shelves, and tables to form the center. 
Clear boundaries are incorporated and tables are not in the middle of the room. 
A variety of hands on activities should be found in each center. At the same time, you do not want to use your center shelves to store all of your materials. This is too much for young students. Picture and word labels on the shelves and containers are a great way to help students be responsible and independent when cleaning up. 

My district recommends the following centers - math, art, writing, science, pretend and learn, ABC, construction, library, listening, sand/water, and computers/technology. 

If you don't have a sand and water table, you can you a clear plastic tub instead. 

I love this pretend and learn setup. We encourage changing the pretend and learn center to go with your teaching theme. Refrigerator boxes are great for this! I have used a refrigerator box to create a big red barn and I have turned one on its side and painted it camouflage to create a jeep for driving in. 

Here is another great example of how to turn your pretend and learn center into something more than a kitchen or home. Unfortunately, I found this idea on Pinterest, but the pin did not lead anywhere so I cannot credit the owner for the great idea :(

Here is another example of how to use furniture, shelves, and tables to create 2-3 sides to form a center. This picture came from The School Supply Addict. You can find these pictures in a post titled Peek into Pre-Kindergarten here

Here are pictures from a PK classroom in my district. 

As hard as this can sometimes be to do, we suggest teachers display all letter/word walls, math walls, content boards, and instructional resources where they are eye-level to the students. This picture provides a great example of this - the Lakeshore Circle Time Center/Math pocket chart, the blue pocket chart, and the alphabet are all displayed on the bottom half of the wall. Once again, I found this picture on Pinterest and there was a problem following the idea back to its source. I was however able to find the following website associated with the picture - 

I found this content wall in a classroom I visited last week. The teacher used the space between the dry erase board and the floor. 

Here is example of another content wall that is lower to the floor. This teacher placed it in the center. 

In my district we are using the term "Letter Wall" in PK instead of "Word Wall." Oftentimes, we tend to put letter/word walls up high on bulletin boards. We encourage placing them low to the ground and making them interactive. I really liked this example because it goes back to the brain research that Debbie Diller shared in her Spaces and Places training where she talks about how the brain sees in borders. I found this letter wall in a classroom I visited this week. These teachers used Velcro to make their letter walls interactive. We also have a lot of teachers who use long pocket charts to make their walls interactive.    

You can see an example of using pocket charts to create a letter wall on the upper left side of this picture. This picture also came from a classroom I visited last week. 

When possible place your letter/word wall where you have your large carpet/meeting area (circle time). This will allow you to use it easily during whole group instruction as well as for students to get to it easily when they are working in small groups or independently. 

We recommend that teachers clearly label all of their centers. While we also recommend that students be given free choice during center time, we do suggest limiting the number of students allowed in the center space at one time for classroom management purposes. Here is an example of one way a teacher does this. Students place their name in the empty spots on the chart. When all three spots are filled, the stop sign is a visual that the center is full. 

This is the same picture I showed above. If you look closely you can see how this teacher used small colored pocket charts from Lakeshore and stop sign cards to limit the number of students in her centers. 

In case there is ever a doubt that students are learning while they play in centers, we give our teachers signs to post in the centers for administrators, parents, and visitors. These signs connect the work the students are doing in the center to the PK guidelines and kindergarten readiness. This teacher made her own version of our signs. I took this picture last week in a classroom I visited. The clipart she used came from
Here is another example using Thistle Girl Designs clipart. 

Going back to this picture from Pre-K Tweets. You can see she other examples of displaying pocket charts and instructional resources low to the ground and labeling centers. Another thing we suggest is placing both books and writing materials in every center. You can see examples of this in this picture as well. 
Here are other examples of adding books and writing materials to centers. These pictures came from my district. 

I love how Crystal from Kreative in Kinder takes apart her magazines, laminates them, and binds them with metal rings to last the whole year. You can read about the other goodies Crystal uses to set up her classroom library here

Going back to this picture from earlier, we encourage teachers to have students names and pictures displayed or being used in at least 5 places in the classroom. Some suggestions include centers, on the letter wall, on the carpet, morning attendance and/or sign in, etc. I like how this teacher used a lined font to create her name cards. She also colored-coded the first letter in a different color since it is a capital. Remember that you need to always write and display student names using a capital letter for the first letter and all of the others in lowercase. I found the lined font KG Primary Penmanship from DaFont here and its free :)
Here is an example of how a teacher used Velcro and a piece of a plastic folder to place the names out on the tables so they are easy to move around. 

A few last words from my Debbie Diller and Spaces and Places training. Choose a color scheme. For the last two years I used lime green polka dots and blue. Use the same border for all of your bulletin boards.

Limit the things you put on the walls. You do not need fluff and extra. You only need one of any resource. No matter how cute they are, you do not need multiple sets of the alphabet, numbers, etc. Since I had the capital and lowercase letters on my word wall, I did not post them again anywhere else. In this picture, you can see one set of the numbers 1-20, the basic 2-D shapes, and the color words. 

Finally, display lots of authentic student work. I like to add signs that tell what we did or learned and when the lesson was centered around a book, I displayed the book with the work. You large bulletin boards that are higher on the walls in your room are great spaces for displaying student work. 

This week I began creating specific Pinterest boards for PK. You can check out my PK boards here

Here are a few of the topics I am thinking about for future posts:
Classroom Management
Positive Reinforcement 
Ways to Keep Students Busy Between Activities
Classroom Organization
Pretend and Learn Center Ideas
Ideas for All Centers
ABC Activities
Writing in PK
Daily Schedule
Morning Routines
Calendar in PK

I am sure I will think of others as the year goes on. Please email me if you have any other ideas you would like me to consider posting about.