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August 17, 2011

My Classroom Management Must-Haves, Part 2: Float Jars and More

By Alycia Zimmerman
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    Last week, I wrote about the color chart that I use to help my students manage their individual behavior choices. The color chart is my saving grace, but it is not the panacea for all behavior woes. This week, I am going to share some more of my favorite management strategies: The Float Jar, Table Stars, and my Homework Black Book.


     

     

    Last week, I wrote about the color chart that I use to help my students manage their individual behavior choices. The color chart is my saving grace, but it is not the panacea for all behavior woes. This week, I am going to share some more of my favorite management strategies: The Float Jar, Table Stars, and my Homework Black Book.


     

     

    The Float Jar

    Problem:

    Have you ever had an amazing bunch of students who function as a well-oiled machine in your classroom, only to fall apart at recess? Several years ago, this was my class. Every day after recess, I had to spend precious class time settling recess and lunch disputes. I was so frustrated with dealing with problems stemming from unstructured time! How could I manage my students when I wasn’t with them? 

    Obviously, this is a complicated issue. I realized that my students’ behavior away from me revealed some underlying issues in our classroom. After I put my finger on those issues, I tried read-alouds, role-playing, and discussions to address these problems, but felt my students needed something tangible to link our classroom values to the unstructured time they spent outside of the classroom. This is where the float jar comes in.

    Solution: Float Jar 2

    My float jar is simply a large clear container – I use an empty pretzel tub. I introduce it to the class with a dramatic demonstration. Before the lesson, I hot-glue five or six plastic bottle caps together in a row. Then I add water to the jar and float the bottle cap “fleet” on the surface. “These little ships are like our class,” I explain. “We are a community, and together we all float.” Then I drop a stack of pennies into one of the bottle caps, and the students shout out warnings as the entire line of “boats” slowly sinks. “What happens when one member of the community sinks?” I ask the class. My students call out, “They ALL sink!” 

    I drive home the metaphor with an explicit conversation. I explain that when we float as a class, all of the members help each other solve problems, follow school rules, and generally take care of each other.

    I tell the students that I’ve brought in the float jar to celebrate when they do a wonderful job of floating together when we’re not in our classroom. After a problem-free recess, lunch, or special class, one student measures out a predetermined amount of water and adds it to the jar. When the water reaches the top of the jar, we celebrate with a special team-building activity – a “float party.” Everyday before our lunch and recess period, my students sing our “Float Jar Song” to the tune of Row Your Boat

    Float, float, float as one, helping out a friend, 

     Together we float, let’s not sink, floating till the end. 


    Table Stars for Terrific Transitions

    Problem:

    My students are sprawled in every corner of the room, some working with partners on their continent research. Others are using art supplies to decorate their continent posters, while four more are at a table near the sink making paper-mache maps. It’s time to transition to math, so I give a two-minute warning. However, when my students start to clean up, it seems like it will take the entire math period. I need to motivate them to speed up this transition, while still being neat and organized.


    Solution: TableStars

    Table stars reward groups for efficient transitions. My students know that I am on the lookout during transitions for teamwork, organization, and promptness. Table groups that impress me during a transition earn a star on the chart. The first table to receive 25 stars gets to eat lunch in the classroom with me and another teacher of their choosing. My colleagues are usually flattered at being chosen as the “celebrity guest,” and they are gracious about joining us during lunch. Now, during transitions I simply stand to the side while my students quietly take care of business.

     

    The Homework Black Book

    Problem: Black Book

    Managing paperwork is not one of my strengths, so keeping track of my students’ homework assignments used to make me miserable. Every year, I would try a new checklist, Excel spreadsheet, or marking book without success. After chatting about my homework woes with a friend, she helped me devise my homework black book, and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.

     

     

    Solution:

    At the beginning of the year, I fill a black binder with tabbed dividers for each student. After each student's name, I add two pages with a recording form. [Download Black Book Form]

    Black book Page
    During the first week of school, I dramatically bring out the book and solemnly say that my students do NOT want to encounter my “Black Book of Homework Shame” too many times. I then explain that if they forget to complete a homework assignment, they must independently go to the book, turn to their tabbed section, and record the date, the assignment, their excuse, and complete their assignment.

    I next explain, in softer tones, that I understand that we're all human and if a name appears only a few times, this is okay. However, if a student writes in the book on a regular basis, this is a different story! I point out that I will have a record, in the student's own handwriting, of each assignment missed. I can show this to the parents, to an administrator, etc. I stress that I doubt that anyone needs to be concerned because I am sure that they will be responsible and complete their homework in a timely fashion. 

    This management lesson takes five minutes, but it has a huge payoff.  The students understand that they are accountable for their assignments and the system provides a teacher-free method of recording homework completion!

    I am sure that you have developed many of your own successful classroom management strategies, and I would love to hear about them! Please share your ideas about how you manage homework, transitions, and everything else. Questions and comments are very welcome!

     

    Last week, I wrote about the color chart that I use to help my students manage their individual behavior choices. The color chart is my saving grace, but it is not the panacea for all behavior woes. This week, I am going to share some more of my favorite management strategies: The Float Jar, Table Stars, and my Homework Black Book.


     

     

    Last week, I wrote about the color chart that I use to help my students manage their individual behavior choices. The color chart is my saving grace, but it is not the panacea for all behavior woes. This week, I am going to share some more of my favorite management strategies: The Float Jar, Table Stars, and my Homework Black Book.


     

     

    The Float Jar

    Problem:

    Have you ever had an amazing bunch of students who function as a well-oiled machine in your classroom, only to fall apart at recess? Several years ago, this was my class. Every day after recess, I had to spend precious class time settling recess and lunch disputes. I was so frustrated with dealing with problems stemming from unstructured time! How could I manage my students when I wasn’t with them? 

    Obviously, this is a complicated issue. I realized that my students’ behavior away from me revealed some underlying issues in our classroom. After I put my finger on those issues, I tried read-alouds, role-playing, and discussions to address these problems, but felt my students needed something tangible to link our classroom values to the unstructured time they spent outside of the classroom. This is where the float jar comes in.

    Solution: Float Jar 2

    My float jar is simply a large clear container – I use an empty pretzel tub. I introduce it to the class with a dramatic demonstration. Before the lesson, I hot-glue five or six plastic bottle caps together in a row. Then I add water to the jar and float the bottle cap “fleet” on the surface. “These little ships are like our class,” I explain. “We are a community, and together we all float.” Then I drop a stack of pennies into one of the bottle caps, and the students shout out warnings as the entire line of “boats” slowly sinks. “What happens when one member of the community sinks?” I ask the class. My students call out, “They ALL sink!” 

    I drive home the metaphor with an explicit conversation. I explain that when we float as a class, all of the members help each other solve problems, follow school rules, and generally take care of each other.

    I tell the students that I’ve brought in the float jar to celebrate when they do a wonderful job of floating together when we’re not in our classroom. After a problem-free recess, lunch, or special class, one student measures out a predetermined amount of water and adds it to the jar. When the water reaches the top of the jar, we celebrate with a special team-building activity – a “float party.” Everyday before our lunch and recess period, my students sing our “Float Jar Song” to the tune of Row Your Boat

    Float, float, float as one, helping out a friend, 

     Together we float, let’s not sink, floating till the end. 


    Table Stars for Terrific Transitions

    Problem:

    My students are sprawled in every corner of the room, some working with partners on their continent research. Others are using art supplies to decorate their continent posters, while four more are at a table near the sink making paper-mache maps. It’s time to transition to math, so I give a two-minute warning. However, when my students start to clean up, it seems like it will take the entire math period. I need to motivate them to speed up this transition, while still being neat and organized.


    Solution: TableStars

    Table stars reward groups for efficient transitions. My students know that I am on the lookout during transitions for teamwork, organization, and promptness. Table groups that impress me during a transition earn a star on the chart. The first table to receive 25 stars gets to eat lunch in the classroom with me and another teacher of their choosing. My colleagues are usually flattered at being chosen as the “celebrity guest,” and they are gracious about joining us during lunch. Now, during transitions I simply stand to the side while my students quietly take care of business.

     

    The Homework Black Book

    Problem: Black Book

    Managing paperwork is not one of my strengths, so keeping track of my students’ homework assignments used to make me miserable. Every year, I would try a new checklist, Excel spreadsheet, or marking book without success. After chatting about my homework woes with a friend, she helped me devise my homework black book, and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.

     

     

    Solution:

    At the beginning of the year, I fill a black binder with tabbed dividers for each student. After each student's name, I add two pages with a recording form. [Download Black Book Form]

    Black book Page
    During the first week of school, I dramatically bring out the book and solemnly say that my students do NOT want to encounter my “Black Book of Homework Shame” too many times. I then explain that if they forget to complete a homework assignment, they must independently go to the book, turn to their tabbed section, and record the date, the assignment, their excuse, and complete their assignment.

    I next explain, in softer tones, that I understand that we're all human and if a name appears only a few times, this is okay. However, if a student writes in the book on a regular basis, this is a different story! I point out that I will have a record, in the student's own handwriting, of each assignment missed. I can show this to the parents, to an administrator, etc. I stress that I doubt that anyone needs to be concerned because I am sure that they will be responsible and complete their homework in a timely fashion. 

    This management lesson takes five minutes, but it has a huge payoff.  The students understand that they are accountable for their assignments and the system provides a teacher-free method of recording homework completion!

    I am sure that you have developed many of your own successful classroom management strategies, and I would love to hear about them! Please share your ideas about how you manage homework, transitions, and everything else. Questions and comments are very welcome!

     

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