Sunday, September 14, 2014

5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1!

I had a colleague ask me how long I have been using a certain classroom management tool the other day. She has seen it used before, but realized just how effective it can be in the classroom after seeing it utilized a couple times in the fourth grade classroom. This tool was the simple partner pairing system Clock Buddies and I do love this tool. That conversation got me thinking....what are my favorite classroom tools. As a result, I made some lists (in no particular order):

5 Favorite Classroom Management Tools

1) Class Dojo - Class Dojo provides immediate acknowledgment of the behaviors and, when utilized at home, gives parents insight to their child's day.
2) Clock Buddies - A great way to quickly pair up students.
3) Silent Signals - The Dollar Tree sells a set of signs (for $1!) on large popsicle sticks that works great for this. It has reminders like: Line up quietly, Eyes on me, Quiet, or Please raise you hand that you simply hold up to signal to the students.
4) Audible Reminders - Class Dojo give great audible reminders for positive and negative behaviors. I also use a wind chime for silence or when it is time to meet back in groups.
5) Whole class or individual Panther Paws- Out school is a PBIS school and this is how we reinforce positive behaviors. When those Paws come out and are handed to the students displaying proper behaviors, other follow suit.

4 Favorite Ways to Communicate to Parents

1) A text messaging tool to text parents pictures or reminders about school. The best part is it is one way communication, so there are no replies.
2) Reflections on the Week - Every Friday, the students fill this form out and I write a little message in the box. They then go home in the Friday Folders for their parents to see.
3) Weekly emails - In lieu of printed newsletters, I send home emails to the parents about what is going on a school or what is coming up in the next week. In these emails, I try to give them specifics about their child's day to talk about a the dinner table.
4) Personalized emails - this year I have started doing personalized emails.  I have a class list and I pick 2-3 students a week to send an email to their parents. In these emails, I write a quick 2-3 positive sentences about their child and what a pleasure it is to have them in class. So far, the response has been amazing!

3 Favorite Classroom Tools

1) Paint Strip Notes - A colorful and different way to take notes that the students collect all year long. I take the paint strips that have 4-6 colors in a vertical column, and we put the important points in each square. For example: We recently did one for the 5 bordering states of Virginia. The top square was the title (5 Bordering States of Virginia) , then the next 5 squares were: Maryland (My), West Virginia (Wild), Kentucky (Kangaroo), Tennessee (Tasted), North Carolina (Nachos).
2) Post-It Notes Exit Tickets - A quick check for understanding in  fun way. Who doesn't love Post-It notes!
3) Online Stopwatch- Class Dojo has one (I just discovered), but there are also many different versions online, and I have the one I commonly used linked

2 Personal Goals to Work on

1) Organization - This is every year and more for visual beautification, but also a little for efficiency.  99% of the time I can find anything needed or asked for, but to look at my table it seems that I just have piles. My piles range from student work to upcoming resources and tests that need to be copied or are copied and then a pile or "What?". Those papers you get in your mailbox and you just aren't sure if you should keep it or not.
2) Can I say organization again? No, well then I would have to say time management. I have to laugh because it seems that the copier always clogs right when I need to leave or that I have to print one more thing right before I have to pick up the class. I try to squeeze as much into those 20-25 minutes that I can and end up being a few seconds late, on a good day, to pick them up.

1 Thing I am always Thankful for

1) A kind word of encouragement or gratitude by colleagues, parents, or students. I truly believe that teachers are, or feel we are, the most under appreciated line of work. It seems that they are always trying to prove to others how well they do their job. I feel that is a direct result of a need for some sort of gratification or word of encouragement since what we may hear from parents and students  is the opposite when they don't do well on a test or get in trouble at lunch.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Waiting to Go Live

This year, I am going to be using technology in the classroom in a way that I have never used it before.

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall?

I am borrowing a line from one of my summer guilty pleasures...Big Brother....but that is besides the point. My daughter is in school, and I would love to have the opportunity to see activities that I can't take off an hour here or a half hour there. As a teacher, we don't have the luxury of flex time or work from home days. We do have some sick time and personal days, but not enough to take off for every clown parade, or class party.

Where am I going with this? Well, I got an idea to give parents a chance to do what I would love to do. I ask for volunteers to help with the many experiments we do each year, but many parents work. Often I will get a reply stating they would love to but they have to work, or that is not one of their days to work from home, but they would have loved to see the activity. This year, I am going to invite the parents in virtually using a online video conferencing, secure website. The parents will receive an email with a specific website. The website changes each time to help keep it secure. The parents will then be able to log on and watch their child do an experiment or perform a reader's theater that they may not have been able to see otherwise.

Daycare facilities have this capability, as does some dog kennels in wealthy areas, so why not the classrooms where the children spend so much of their time.