In my last post, I wrote about the importance of classroom management and the five key elements that you MUST do to be successful. Today, I want to share my Our Hopes & Dreams lesson plan that I use to start that discussion with my students on the very first day of school. It’s not an icebreaker, it’s not a game … this is an activity that has meaning for the rest of the year!
You know how that first day can be! It’s stressful. It’s probably the longest day of the year. I used to spend time making endless lists of plans to keep everyone busy and happy for that first day and half of it never even got touched. What a waste of time!
Now, instead of those endless lists, I use this as a way to get to know my students, build community, establish and discuss our classroom expectations and routines, and incorporate ALL 5 Cs! That last one is big in my district:) This lesson plan is also a part of our Responsive Classroom strategies, so when I say I’m hitting everything, I really mean I’m fitting in everything I’m intentionally trying to work on in my classroom! And by the end of the day, I have a simple classroom display, along with our classroom expectations posters that we make collaboratively, that can be posted on a bulletin board or wall in the classroom for the rest of the year as a reminder of our reason for working hard and following the rules! It’s a win win!
It all starts with one question, “What are your hopes and dreams for the future?” If you’d like a copy of this first day lesson plan that will have meaning and make a difference for the rest of your school year, you can get it by going to my shop or clicking here!
What’s your Classroom and Behavior Management Plan?
No matter who you are or what you use, your classroom and behavior management plan is the key to your classroom’s success! You can plan amazing lessons, room transformations, and activities. None of that will be as meaningful without a solid classroom management plan. In my fifteen years of teaching, I’ve found five key rules for any management plan to work.
Your students need to know that you respect them and care about them. They need to feel valued; that their thoughts, feelings, and actions are important to you.
Building positive relationships doesn’t mean that you are their friend. Being their friend puts you on their level. This is not where you want to be if you want to hold the authority in your classroom. This means that you need to make sure they see you as an ally and mentor; someone who will treat them with value and lead them in a positive direction.
I begin building these relationships on day one. I join in on their conversations. I ask about them and take time to listen to their stories. I tell them they are important to me and I speak to them with respect and honesty. I’m straightforward. I tell my students that our relationships matter towards having a successful year. I tell them that I may make mistakes sometimes (I’m human) but that I will try my best to be honest and fair. We have a realistic discussion about what they expect from me as their teacher and I tell them that they can hold me to these expectations. We are ALL in this together.
Throughout the year, I join in on their conversations and games at recess. Sometimes I eat lunch with them. Sometimes I join in on resource/specials classes with them. I make sure we have time to smile together. And when it’s necessary, I make sure we have time to be serious and talk about more difficult things together. I share my emotions with my students. To me, it’s important that the students know emotions are okay, and that we all have them. To me, it’s important to show that I am a real human (a professional human, of course).
Clear Expectations and Consequences
Whether you have printed Bitmoji rules posters already made or you make the rules together as a class (or school), it is extremely important to make sure your students understand your expectations and the consequences for meeting or not meeting them.
Your expectations should be high, yet fair! Students need to be motivated intrinsically to meet the classroom expectations. They are only going to feel this intrinsic motivation if they feel like they are capable of meeting the classroom expectations or following the rules. Your consequences must also be fair and clear. Your students need to know what will happen if they don’t meet your expectations and what will happen if they do.
You also need to make it clear that you are here to help them. I let my students know that they can always talk to me if they are having a bad day and may need a little extra help from me to be successful.
Your language needs to be clear. You may feel like you’re on repeat, but if you tell your students exactly what you want them to do, give clear directions, etc. they are more likely to do those things. Even when what you’re telling them is a direction you give every day, it’s important that you give those directions – “push in your chairs and line up quietly”. Many teachers use music, door bells, call and responses for these daily routines and expected behaviors. Those only work if you have given very clear directions, many times, about what you expect them to do before you use those techniques.
No matter what, you must consistently reinforce the expectations and consequences. I think this is the hardest part of it all. Especially at the beginning of the year, it’s easy to fall into the misconception that if you get on them or punish them for not meeting your expectations, they won’t like you or they’ll think that you’re mean. That’s not true! Remember, you are trying to earn their respect and you can’t do that if you’re a pushover. You’ve established the expectations and consequences. You’re working hard to meet the expectations they’ve set for you. You MUST consistently hold them to your expectations. This doesn’t just mean that they get in trouble for every misbehavior. Consistency must also go towards reinforcing the positive behaviors. And, just because a student is getting a consequence for a negative behavior, it doesn’t mean that you have to enforce that consequence with anger. It won’t be important to your students if they don’t think it’s important to you, and that’s where consistency comes into play!
I mean several things when I say to “be fair”. I mentioned above that your expectations need to be fair. What I mean is that they need to be reachable. Your consequences must be fair. They must make sense with the level of misbehavior or the level of positive behavior. You must hold ALL of your students to the same level of expectations and consequences. I promise you, your students will notice if they think one student is getting away with misbehaviors for ANY reason. They’ll also notice if one student is being reinforced for positive behaviors way more often than others. For inclusion classrooms like mine, this may mean that you have preventative measures like social skills lessons, behavior tools, verbal prompts, whatever else, in order to help some students meet your expectations and have the same chance as everyone else in the room. This may also mean that you have to work harder to keep a more positive outlook and mindset. It can be really easy to get sucked into the negative mindset and only notice misbehaviors. Again, your job is to help your students meet the classroom expectations, and that means you have to work as hard to help them as you expect them to work towards their positive behaviors.
With fairness, I also mean that you need to be fair in how you treat the students when they don’t meet your expectations. If being yelled at in front of everyone is not something that you would like done to you when you make a mistake, you should not be doing that when your students make mistakes. Also, if you do happen to have that student who consistently makes those mistakes, be fair in how you watch and manage his/her behavior. You can’t allow yourself to only focus on the misbehaviors. Your students will never make positive changes if you don’t also reinforce the positive behaviors they exhibit.
Your students WILL want to talk to you. They’ll want to tell you stories. They’ll want to explain themselves when they make mistakes. You HAVE TO take time to listen to them. It’s a huge part in the positive, respectful relationships you’re building with them. I think many of us believe that we don’t have time to listen to our students. I feel this way too, sometimes. But, there are definitely times throughout your day that you can make time to listen – pull that student a few minutes during resource/specials, lunch, recess, or arrival. I’m sure when you really think about it, you do have a few minutes somewhere in your day that you can use to make that student feel listened to. I promise you, it’s worth your time!
It doesn’t matter if you use a behavior chart, Class Dojo, an economy system, etc. Without these five elements, none of those will be successful. These five elements come into play when collaborating with your students’ families also. It’s important that you work with and build positive relationships with them, and it’s important that you all are setting clear classroom expectations, being consistent, fair, and listening to each other.
So … now that you know the five key elements to any successful classroom management plan, it’s time to prepare what works for you. What are your expectations? What are your consequences? How will you keep track of the behaviors? How will you manage the daily routines? If you haven’t thought about this, now is a great time to start! It’s the most important thing you can do to prepare for having your best school year ever!
Have a great school year! And if you’d like to know more about how I implement these things in my classroom, please leave a comment/question or get in touch!
Do you do Responsive Classroom or Morning Meetings in your school or classroom? If so, you know that spending 15-20 minutes a day sharing thoughts and “playing” with your students can be your most successful relationship building moment of the day.
My students and I learn more about each other and build the strongest community bonds during our Morning Meeting time. In the time that most teachers would be transitioning from breakfast/morning work to “class” time, we are sharing our thoughts, writing songs together, completing mini-stem challenges, playing teamwork building games, solving critical thinking puzzles, character building, and learning about each other’s strengths and unique personalities in ways that just can’t happen during any other class time.
To make my morning meetings easier to plan and keep routine, I use a Google slides presentation. Having this routine has allowed me to share these with my substitutes, collaborative teachers and students so that meetings can still run smoothly when I’m out. Because my students are used to seeing the same layout each day, I can often choose a student to lead the meeting on the days that I’m out. For those teachers who know what it’s like trying to explain a morning meeting to a substitute on paper, you know that the ability to have a student run your meeting instead is amazing! (Of course, I teach 4th graders who are capable of leading this and reading the presentation, but I’m sure this is possible of some of the younger grades also!)
Thanks for joining me! It’s spring break at my school and with the little bit of “free time” from working, I’ve finally found the courage to do something I’ve wanted to do for a LONG time … MY FIRST POST!
In my school we are in crunch time for state testing. I’ve been in a “testing” grade for three years now, and wow, the amount of stress on the teachers and students is CRAZY. I’ve been teaching for over 12 years now. I spent 9 years in a second grade classroom and the difference in how you get to spend the end of the year with your students is SO UNFAIR. So … what does a teacher do? I make every possible effort to keep my students as stress-free as possible. I encourage, praise, practice (practice, practice, practice … I’ll come back to that), and tell my students the truth about what to expect and what they need to do to meet their goals (individually, one student at a time, of course). Most of all, I tell my students that we are in this together and that I believe in them, DAILY.
Let me back up a little. It’s my philosophy that every lesson, assignment, and task should be meaningful. Every decision I make as a teacher counts and must help my students meet their yearly goals, and some of my own a long the way. There’s a lot to keep in mind. For example, does the lesson/task require higher level thinking, how can it be differentiated to meet all students’ needs, is it doable within the time-limits as set by the daily schedule and pacing guide, what’s the next step and how does it fit into the process towards mastery, is it engaging (allow for choice, creativity, etc.)? These questions, and more, drive the decisions I make from day one to the end of the year. This includes test prep, which we’ve been working on, in some way or another, for the entire year if I’m honest. It’s my belief that students must feel safe and cared for when they are in the classroom in order to be successful academically. For that reason, I work hard, daily, to promote respect and kindness. One of my own goals each year is to create a classroom family, in which students can speak honestly with me and their peers, and everyone feels safe to be themselves. We spend time every morning getting to know each other with a Morning Meeting. My school started Responsive Classroom training last year and I use the ideas to help encourage my students to accept and appreciate their own unique qualities and each other’s. I take the time to show my students that I love and respect them (no matter what). I do these things in front of the other students, and in effect, my students learn to love and care for each other like family and feel safe to be themselves, mistakes and all. Success starts here.
Back to spring break. We all needed it. We’ve been working really hard, and even though it’s early April in VA (and the weather can’t decide if it should be slightly warm or freezing), we all needed time to rest and play in the sun (or clouds/rain depending on the day) and NOT think about testing. On Monday, we’ll meet back refreshed, optimistic, and ready to continue challenging ourselves to meet and exceed our goals and expectations.
I’ll share more about test prep in my classroom when I get back to school:) For now, it’s time to watch a movie and snuggle with my kiddos.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton