There are three simple tips that I was given that have come to dramatically change my classroom. They are not hard to follow or difficult to implement, but they have made life much simpler for me, and have reduced problematic behaviors. Around this time of the year, students are showing their true colors. Even the most disciplined of classrooms starts to fray around the edges when the holidays come. Here are three ways to get back on track for the New Year:
This may seem obvious. I know a great many teachers have given their students numbers. I bucked this trend for a long time, thinking I would be reducing my kids to numbers. Besides, what would happen when a child left or a new child came? Well, it’s simple. A child leaves and now I skip that number. A new child arrives and they go to the end of the line. I gave every child a number, working in alphabetic order by last name.
I have all my students write their number in the upper right hand part of their pages. This means that I can quickly and easily sort all the papers into numeric order. Then I put the numbers on their take-home folders. Now, when I want to put items in folders, they are all in the same order. I put a number line on the floor and students line up in that order, unless they are the line leader that week. No more fussing about the line, running to a spot, or getting next to a talkative friend. I draw numbers for volunteers, pair up even numbers, or use student numbers in math problems. Suddenly I know what papers are missing at a glance, what folder is left at home, and were everyone is in line.
I adopted the same five rules that my coworkers are using. They are from whole-brain teaching methods. We do little hand signals with them as we recite them. Having five rules cuts down on rule-overload and covers a multitude of sins. Here’s the real key: When students aren’t following the rules, I just ask, “What’s rule number two?” and suddenly they are back on track. I can whisper, “Rule four” as I pass by a desk and they know what to fix. I never have to yell, talk over students, or spend much time redirecting. Here are our rules:
Follow directions quickly (make a swimming motion with one hand)
Raise your hand to speak (raise hand and then make a talking motion with your hand)
Listen when your teacher is talking (cup ear and then make a talking motion with your hand)
Make smart choices (tap temple)
Respect others, respect yourself, and respect your school (open arms with palms up, point to self, point to ground)
I was introduced to music transitions at MEMTA several years ago. The instructor played The Andy Griffith Show theme song to indicate when shoulder partners should stop talking. The cue gave everyone a few seconds to finish their conversation, and come together without fussing or yelling. I researched music transitions in the classroom and found great suggestions from Rick Morris at New Management. I adopted some of his ideas to work in my first grade classroom. When the music ends, so does the activity, and students know they are to be quiet and ready. I don’t yell over them, I don’t squelch their talk time during transitions, and I have happy bopping students. Music can be added to any device and used at any time without you saying a word.
When I want students to line up, I play the theme to Saved By The Bell. They can talk and dance while the song plays, but at the end of the time they are to stop and be in line (which is in number order of course!).
To get students to clean up, I play a two-minute Jeopardy theme. The musical cues indicate when the song will end. I have found that students have adapted to know how long they have internally. No more yelling for attention or trying to get students started on clean up!
I also have a “come to the carpet” song for moving to and from the floor. Students can chat as they move, as long as they are seated and in place when the music ends. I use the Bill Nye the Science Guy theme.
My music comes from Television Tunes, but because of copyrights, I substituted other tracks in the videos. You'll still get the idea. Make sure you select a song you can stand to hear 100 times each week to avoid driving yourself nuts!
Other musical transitions can include:
Talk time — gives cues for when to end the conversation
Grab attention — I’ve used the NBC chime for this
Provide a time limit to an activity
These three simple changes have made a huge impact in my classroom. I don’t have to yell or raise my voice. I've adopted a few great attention-getting techniques from fellow blogger Alycia Zimmerman, and some great organization to help things flow smoothly. I’m a fairly strict person with high expectations for my students, yet most of them say I’m “so nice” simply because the management tools do the work for me.
Get your musical tracks ready and start numbering. You’ll be ready for an efficient and calm classroom when you come back in January!