Back to school means back to teaching rules, routines, procedure and more! Working with your students to create the rules and expectations for the classroom is a powerful way to start the year. Students are invested in what is going on and are more likely to work to meet your expectations. Need some ideas for how to set up rules with your students? Read through my blog post series filled with ideas, activities, books and how-to's.

I am always on the lookout for great books to use to teach everything - and science is no exception! When we are just introducing how to be a scientists, I like to choose books that are simple, but use strong vocabulary, have photos or illustrations that my students can relate to, and give students enough to think about so we can discuss and ask questions. (Come to think about it - those are the same criteria I use for pretty much every book I choose!) This post is the third in a series about introducing science to young students. You can read the other posts here:

These six books are my go-to books for science at the beginning of the year. Most are read alouds, but a couple of them can be done well with small groups. Unfortunately, not all of them are available. I'm going to share them anyway because teachers are masters at finding what we want, and you never know when a good book will show up at a tag sale or used book store.

What is a Scientist? by Barbara Lehn is a great beginning read-aloud for introducing scientific thinking. The pictures shows kids engaged in scientific activities such as observing and measuring and gives a brief explanation. This is a great jumping off point to introduce all the things a scientist does.

Being a Scientist by Natalie Lunis and Nancy White goes more in-depth into those scientific activities such as measuring,, observing, classifying etc. I like to read this book with my students, but I tend to paraphrase the text because it can be long. The photographs are bright and colorful and my kiddos enjoy answering the questions posed throughout the book.

What is Science? by Rebecca Dotlich is a very simply written and colorful book that gives a variety of answers to the question, "What is science?" I like to ask my students this the very first time we start talking about science. We group our answers into scientific topics, science tools, scientific activities, etc. It's a great way to start a conversation and find out what your students know and think about science.
I Use Science Tools is part of an emergent reader series of science books. The text is very simple, but the photographs are a great way to make sure everyone is clear about what a variety of science tools are used for. I tend to show this one under the document camera, stopping to talk about how each tool is used.

Nature Spy, by Ken Kreisler is a great book to use when discussing the importance of observation. This book tells about how children can be a "nature spy"  observing and noticing and recognizing patterns in nature. It's a very relatable book for students, which is why I keep it around.

Scientists Ask Questions, by Ginger Garrett is part of the Rookie Read-About Science series. Simple text and colorful photos make it engaging for young readers and there is just enough information for students to learn without being overwhelmed. I have 6-8 copies of this book and I like to use it in a small group. I put it out as a center after we have read it together.

There are so many different ideas out there for classroom management incentives, it can be hard to find what works for you. Once you have your management philosophy in place (click HERE to jump to the first post in this series), you can start adding programs and incentives.

Just a note of caution though - none of these ideas I'm about to share should be the basis of how you run your classroom. And, don't be afraid to change things up if something isn't working! Some years I've used nothing but a good old marble jar, and other years I have needed to try every trick in the book. What you do depends on your students and what they need, but here are a few ideas to take a look at.

This is one of the first things teachers think about when they think behavior programs. Many people like clip charts, and use them effectively. Others don't feel they send the right message. As I said before, you need to do what is right for your students. A clip chart is a leveled system in which students move their "clip" up and down during the day, depending on their behavior. Moving up means positive rewards. Moving down means negative consequences (losing privileges, note home). A benefit to using a clip chart is all students start the day in the middle and have a chance to move up or down. Students can also make better choices and move up the chart if they have struggled that morning or activity and still finish the day in a positive place. The public aspect of the clip chart is something many teachers do not like. Everyone can see where each student is during the day, and being told to "move your clip down" can be embarrassing for students.

This is the link to the ebook from the original "creator" of the clip chart. (Click on the any of the images to follow that link.) If you're going to use a clip chart, start here so you have background into how the chart should work and the thinking behind it.

Clip charts were all the rage a few years ago, but as is true with many things in education, the pendulum has swung and clip charts have fallen out of favor with many people. You can google plenty of posts about why many teachers don't like clip charts. BUT.... a clip chart CAN be a positive experience. Sarah has a wonderful way to make the clip chart focus on POSITIVE behaviors and to really encourage students to put the character traits we all value into action.

I love this  idea! If you want to do a clip chart, you can easily make your own, or purchase one from Teachers Pay Teachers. Here's a link to the ones in my store.

This is the newest behavior idea teachers like to use. Brag tags are very simple  they are like dog tags that students can earn for just about anything you want. The positives with this system is that it focuses on rewarding the positive - academics and behavior. Students have a way to keep track of what they have earned and have something tangible as a reward. Brag tags can be overwhelming to start with. Prepping and organizing and remembering to hand them out takes time. But many students and teachers LOVE brag tags (some are starting to call them "swag tags" instead.) Angie Olson from Lucky Little Learners is one of the gurus of brag tags.

This is another idea that has been around for a while, but I first heard about it from Kristen over at A Teeny Tiny Teacher. (And if you're not following her blog, do it now - no matter what grade you teach. She is a riot!) She explains her golden tickets in a blog post and makes it really simple. Cut yellow paper and you're done. Decide on your Friday centers or activities or whatever and you're done. Easy to prep, easy to manage and easy to make work for your own class.

This is a great strategy when you need something different for your kiddos, or something for a short period of time that works on one specific thing that drives you batty. Pick a word, any word. You can choose a holiday word, a vocab word, a silly word... whatever you want. Just make sure it has more than 4 or 5 letters or the incentive will be over too quickly. The idea is that students are working to spell the word you (they?) chose. Every time you see them demonstrating whatever skill or behavior you're working on, they earn one letter. When the word is spelled, the class earns a reward. Extra recess, 15 minutes of drawing time, movie and popcorn. It's up to you. You could even do this like hangman and put up blanks instead of letters. Each time students earn a chance to guess one of the letters. You could also use a phrase. Keep track of the letters on your whiteboard or make a quick display somewhere in the room. It's easy and quick! Ashley from One Sharp Bunch has lots of great ideas to go with this theme.

There are lots of ways you can incorporate technology into your behavior incentives, too. Technology is engaging and interactive and can be a motivator for many students. Class Dojo is a very popular online behavior management resource that allows parents to see how their child is doing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image. I tried this program a couple years ago and just didn't feel comfortable with the public aspect of everyone knowing each other's points and seeing them get taken away etc. It was kind of like the clip chart all over again for me. Many teachers love this program though, so if it sounds interesting to you, check it out!

I also just had to share The Primary Techie's take on behavior management, too! Use your technology and build something to earn a reward! She has created Powerpoint files that you can project on the whoteboard and click to add a "piece" of something every time your students demonstrate god behavior. When the item is complete, the class earns a reward. You could create something like this on your own, or purchase her bundle and be set for the year. (Yes, I own it, but this is just my opinion!) Here's what her "Build a Burger" looks like part way through.

Now let's talk about the actual rewards. Once students have earned their reward, what do you do? Catherine over at The Brown Bag Teacher has some great ideas for easy classroom rewards that aren't food.

And Beth from Adventures of a Schoolmarm shares her rewards cards. Perfect for rewards that don't cost a thing!

Did you find an idea that you like? Try it out in your classroom and see what happens. Like I said at the beginning, don't be afraid to change it up or modify it to work for you. If you missed any of my other posts in this series, I've included the links below. And if you have questions or comments, feel free to drop your ideas in the comments below or email me!
Classroom management - it all starts with you!
3 Things to do at the beginning of the year
3 classroom management mistakes beginning teachers make

Welcome back! Are you ready to put everything you learned about classroom management into action? We've talked about establishing your classroom management philosophy and what you need to do to start the year off right. Now a few weeks have gone by, the kids are settling in and things are going well. Then, it happens. A little bump in the road. That's ok. Tomorrow will be better. Later that week you start to feel like things are slowly moving in the wrong direction. Let's fix all that before it even happens!

Sound familiar? Yep... we went over this before, but it definitely needs repeating. MODEL EVERYTHING. Many teachers do a great job modeling routines and procedures at the beginning of the year. But they forget the importance of modeling every day! For example, let's say you have a math game students will play in partners. You sit together on the rug, you explain the game, maybe even write the directions on the board... but when you pair everyone up and send them off, no one knows what to do! Johnny and Susie are playing the game correctly, but Mara and Letesha are not following the rules. Colby and Peter are tossing the dice around, and two other groups are just sitting there not knowing how to get started... what happened?! You need to model! Before you send students off to do pretty much anything - especially at the beginning of the year, or if it's a new game or activity or worksheet - it always helps to model what you want done. Have two students play the game together in front of everyone, showing how to roll the dice, move the pieces, play the game. You'd be surprised how many students will suddenly have an a-ha moment and REALLY understand what to do! The same goes for activity pages and worksheets. Do one part or a couple examples together so students can see where to write the answer, what format, etc. Believe me, this extra time spent modeling can save you so much of a headache and save your kiddos from being frustrated!

I have observed and mentored many new teachers, student teachers, interns etc. This is the number one thing so many beginning teachers have trouble with. I watch teachers begin a very engaging and well-planned lesson. Everyone is paying attention and is on the ball. Then I notice Ryan. He is getting fidgety. He rocks in his chair. He rolls his pencil around. He starts talking to someone near him. Now there's a hum in the room. The teachers reminds everyone to pay attention, but does not stop. Now many students are not being respectful of the speaker. Lots of quiet chatter and movement. Finally, after about 10 minutes when I want to jump in and get things under control, the teacher - who is visibly frustrated - stops the lesson and addresses one of the students who is talking. The point of this story? Pay close attention to the small things WHEN THEY START and deal with them right away - otherwise you risk the activity spiraling out of control. You might have to stop 5 times in 10 minutes. That's ok. If you keep going when no one is paying attention, it's not going to get any better! Do you notice students constantly playing with materials while you explain something? Remember my little tip about being proactive? Next time before the lesson starts, clear the area. I really do think this comes with experience. As you teach more, you will notice students who you need to make eye contact with, call their name, etc. (I love teachers who can just throw a student's name into a sentence: "That's right! We need to regroup because the ones - Lindsey please stop - have more than 9 so we have to make a ten.") Sometimes that's all it takes! But you have to be aware of everything going on in order to make it work.

Yes, that's right. You are now a teacher. Not the fun babysitter, not a camp counselor, not their cousin. YOU ARE THEIR TEACHER. And that means your role has changed. Yes, you can definitely be caring and fun and supportive and funny, but you can't... no matter what anyone tells you, be their friend. I am the first to tell you to get to know your students, make connections, learn about them. That is incredibly important. But always remember that you have other responsibilities now, too. You need to follow through on the rules, make decisions that they may not like (No Mark, you may not partner with Brian. or I'm sorry, we can't play a word game today.) Your students are coming to you to learn. Your job is to teach them how to be a reader and a writer and a good friend and how to work with others, etc. You can be there for them, support them, encourage them and share experiences with them. But do it as their teacher, not as their friend.

Do you see yourself in any of these mistakes? Don't take it personally - EVERY beginning teacher needs support with classroom management. Good classroom management comes with experience. But if you think about these 3 areas, you can improve your classroom management skills now - and enjoy a great year of teaching later!

You can read more about classroom management ideas in my other posts in this series:
Classroom management - it all starts with you!
3 Things to do at the beginning of the year
Ideas for classroom management incentives

Welcome to part 2 of my blog series on classroom management. (You can read part 1, building a foundation for classroom management, HERE.) Today we'll focus on starting the year strong. What you do in your classroom at the beginning of the year will set the tone and the standards for how things go the rest of the year - and this is especially true for classroom management.

So what can you do right away at the beginning of the year to help? These are my top 3 tips for starting the year off right.

This is without a doubt the most important thing you can do. Spend the time
now teaching routines and procedures or you'll have to be doing it all year long. Introduce it, model it, practice it, review it and model and practice again - for EVERYTHING. There are obvious procedures like how to start the day, how to ask to use the bathroom or get a drink, where to put papers, etc. Then there are the not-so-obvious things. These things become apparent right in the middle of the activity. How do we use a glue stick? How much glue goes on your paper? Where do scraps go after cutting? How do we come to the rug from our seats? Do NOT assume your kiddos know these things. And if they do know how to do them, they may not do them the way YOU want. For example, I have small buckets that get placed at each table/workspace for scraps when we cut. The scraps go into the buckets and then get emptied after we are all done and cleaning up. Who gets the buckets? Where do they go? Who empties them? When? Trust me. If you think about all this beforehand (remember my tip on being proactive from the last blog post?), you can teach all these things now and after in the year you won't even have to think about it.
The big question that always comes up is, "How long do I spend on this stuff?" My answer - figure out a time and double it! :-) Teachers who spend the first 2,4, even 6 weeks focusing on routines and procedures and creating the environment they want are the ones who have a class running smoothly in January. I know you can't actually spend the first six weeks not doing academics. And that's ok. But you need to spend as much time as possible on every routine and procedure. The time you put into this now will come back to you ten-fold later in the year.

This is right up there with everything I said above. MODEL, MODEL, MODEL! SHOW kids how things should be done, don't just tell them. Let students practice. Do it the right way, model it incorrectly and then model it correctly again. This is where your routines and procedures come to life. Have some fun with it! I usually talk about the routine first - why do we need a routine for this? what is going to be important to do? I will often write ideas on the whiteboard or smartboard, or we make an anchor chart if I want to save them. Then we practice. I ask one or to students to show me the right way to do something. We talk as a class and point out what that students did well (refer to the chart or notes we took). Then comes the fun part! I ask someone to show me the wrong way to do something. You might want to choose a student who you know has trouble with this routine. They will usually LOVE to come up and fool around and make a complete mess of what they need to do. Again, talk about it! Here's the important part - now ask the SAME student to demonstrate the CORRECT way of doing it. This serves two purposes. You are ending with a model of how to do things correctly, and the student who previously showed everything wrong, now shows it correctly - proving he or she CAN follow the rules!

The beginning of the year is a crucial time for establishing an environment in which kids feel safe enough to take risks and WANT to do well. This comes from feeling invested in the classroom. Allow students to be part of everything you can. Let them help establish rules, routines and procedures. Get their opinion on how things should be done. When we make our anchor charts for rules and routines early in the year, I always ask students for their input. What is important about how we do this? Why? What are the steps we need to take to do this successfully? Seeing their words and ideas on our chart makes them feel like they played a big part in establishing how things work. By asking for ideas and input, students may come up with things you haven't even thought about!

I promise - if you take the time now, even if other teachers are moving into more academic content - to work on routines, procedures and building community, the rest of the year will go much more smoothly! As I said at the beginning, do it now, or do it all year long!
You can read more about classroom management ideas in my other posts in this series:
Classroom management - it all starts with you!
3 classroom management mistakes beginning teachers make
Ideas for classroom management incentives

Classroom management. New teacher or veteran teacher, we have all struggled with how to deal with behavior, keep students focused and engaged and give students a community in which they feel invested. Classroom management can make or break your teaching. So what's a teacher to do? This is part 1 in a series of blog posts about classroom management. We'll cover basic ideas (that's this post!), the most important things to do at the beginning of the year, the top 3 mistakes new teachers make in classroom management, and ideas for incentives. Let's get started!

Earlier this year, a student teacher from another classroom came to spend some time in my room. "Your kids are so well-behaved. What kind of behavior program do you use?" she asked me. Quite honestly, I was taken aback. I didn't have an answer. "I don't use a behavior plan," I replied. "So how do you get the kids to behave?" she asked.

I really had to stop and think about this. I've been teaching for many years now. Classroom management has always been a strength for me. But why exactly is that? What do I do - what do other teachers do - in order to have great management skills? (And can I tell you - I really don't like those words. I don't "manage" my classroom or my students. There needs to be another term for this area.) And I'm going to be honest - Right now, I don't teach in a school where major behavior problems exist. But I have. My district... my classroom... my students... may be different than yours. You have to do what is right for YOUR students. But this is what works for me. And it has worked pretty much every year for over 20 years now.

The big key to success? Here it is:

Start with a PHILOSOPHY before you put in a system. Marble jars, clip charts, lottery ticket, brag tags... these ideas come and go. Some years I've used none of these. And some years I've used them all at some time or another. But my philosophy, the "why" behind everything I do, stays the same year after year. So whether you're a new teacher looking for help after feeing like you've been herding cats all day... or you're a veteran teacher who has seen it all :-), here are my top 5 tips for good classroom management.

Connect with your students inside and outside of school. If you can go to sporting events and dance recitals and music performances, then go. If not, that's ok. ASK about these things. Find out what's coming up in each and every child's life. Talk with them about how their day is going, what they had for breakfast, where they're going after school. Share with them things you like to do and encourage them to share the same. You can do this by standing in the hall and greeting everyone as they come in. Use five minutes at morning meeting to share. Listen as they're having snack. Pay attention to conversations on the playground and during indoor recess. Make it a point to get to know your students. This connection is invaluable. It breeds respect. It makes students WANT to do well. Do the same thing with each other. Make sure students connect with their classmates. Celebrate everything, no matter how small. I guarantee you this one action of making connections will have a monumental effect on the behavior of your students.

I love those words. I read them in a book one of my principal's gave me about the differences between a good teacher and a great teacher. Great teachers think about things beforehand, rather than reacting to what occurs. Think about it this way. Is it better to plan beforehand and think about how certain students will react to something (choosing partners, using manipulatives, etc.) and plan accordingly, or to react in the moment when someone complains because of who they are working with or fools around with manipulatives, etc.? This idea goes a long way. Planning an activity that requires students to get up and get materials? Visualize what can happen - then plan for it! Move things to a different spot, have everything ready... think about it BEFORE it happens and the behavior issues will be so much less!

Celebrate, shout out and point out the positives every, single. day. High five, do cheers, and smile with your kids! Did Lucy just write a complete sentence? Has Harry been working quietly for five minutes? NOTICE these things. You can point them out in a way that involves everyone, or just quietly with that student. If you focus on the positive, your students will soon discover that if they want attention, doing it the right ay is the way to go!

 Fair does not always mean equal. We've all had discussions about what is "fair." Fair means that everyone gets the same playing field. It does not mean everyone gets the same thing. And for young students, this is a tough one to understand. I address it right away. "It is my job as the teacher to make sure that everyone gets what they need to be successful. That might mean different things for different people. And sometimes it may not seem fair to you. But trust me, it is fair to them." Then we talk about what if Mia came in with a broken arm and couldn't write so I had a friend do the writing for her. No one else gets to do that. Is that fair? Of course! What is important is that YOU know it is fair.

This is a big one for me. Is someone still fooling around with the math cubes after being asked to stop? Then that student cannot use the cubes. (It might be for a short time or the whole time - remember to be fair!) Is Martha having a hard time working with her friends nearby? She needs to choose a different spot. Did Ryan just tell Mark he didn't want to be partners with him because he cheats all the time?  Ok... choose a different partner. The idea here is for the consequences to come naturally out of the actions. Having to move to a different seat for talking with friends - natural consequence. Losing 5 minutes of recess because of it? - Not a natural consequence. Sometimes natural consequences present themselves immediately, and sometimes (remember Ryan and Mark?) they might come later. But they are always there.

Knowing your classroom management philosophy is an important part of being a successful teacher. But it takes time. When you have a clear understanding of WHY you do things, the HOW will be so much clearer!
You can read more about classroom management ideas in my other posts in this series:
3 Things to do at the beginning of the year
3 classroom management mistakes beginning teachers make
Ideas for classroom management incentives

Do you do a morning meeting with your students? Whether you're looking to get started with a morning meeting for the first time, or trying to find ways to liven up what you already do, I've got some ideas that can help!
Morning meeting is a great way to start the day off on the right foot, make connections and have fun together. I have done morning meeting in some form or another for more than fifteen years - and I would never give it up! But I have learned a thing or two about how to make the most of this time. My two biggest tips? Keep it structured and change it up! I know those two things sound completely opposite of each other, but they're really not.

Keeping it structured means having the same general format to the meeting every day so students know what to expect. It doesn't matter what the components are - greeting, sharing, read aloud, calendar, activity, etc. What's important is that each morning meeting follows the same format. At the beginning of the year I post a "morning meeting agenda" that we review as soon as we come together on the rug. That way everyone knows what we'll be doing and when. I have four parts to my morning meeting: greeting, calendar, sharing and activity. You can find out more about each these parts and how they work in this post. (Click the image)

Now that we've got the structure set, we can change it up! That means add in new greetings, different activities and fun new ways to share. Things can get old fast and the last thing you want are students who are not engaged in the meeting time.  Here are the links to my posts about each part of my morning meeting. You'll find tips for making it successful and ideas you can use in your classroom right away!
I also do my calendar time during morning meeting. It's not the same old boring calendar activities, though! We do our calendar activities on the Smartboard and this gives me a chance to change things up throughout the year, as well as differentiate for my students. You can see how I do this in this post.

Morning meeting doesn't have to be hard to do - and it definitely doesn't have to be boring! Work with your students to come up with new greetings, fun activities and different ideas. Pretty soon morning meeting will be your favorite part of the day!

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