My group of blessings this year has forced me to come up with all kinds of new tricks to keep order in my classroom. When my principal did his last observation, he recorded the different management strategies I used. In the 45 minutes he was with me, he observed 5 different strategies and I know he missed out on a few. It has taken me a while to get here, but I finally feel I have the right strategies (at least for the time being) for this group of kiddos.
Today, I'm going to share the whole-group strategies I use. I'll share my individual strategies tomorrow.
Call and Response - I have collected a few calls to use to get the children's attention. Sometimes they work better than others, but in general they help bring everyone together for the next set of directions. I use Class-Yes the most, changing up the way I say Class to keep it exciting for the kiddos. Sometimes I launch into song and the students join in. My favorite is (I don't know the name of it, but here are the lyrics) "If you want to be somebody, if you want to go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention." I've also taught my class to respond with "Shhhhhh!" when I say, "Spring a leak." I don't use that one as often as I used to, but I'll pull it out occasionally.
Tallies to Earn Puzzle Pieces - I have no fancy name for this strategy. It's a combination of a number of strategies I have seen online, but it really works for my kiddos. At the beginning of this system the students vote on a reward for the end. I try to do things that are fun but don't cost any money. So far my students have won a silly sock party (where they got to take their shoes off and learn in their socks) and a stuffed animal party (where they got to learn with their favorite stuffed animal). They are currently working for a pajama party. I create a poster for their party and cut it into six puzzle pieces. The pieces are taped (backs facing out) to the whiteboard. When they earn a piece, I turn it right-side-out. They earn their party when all six pieces are facing out. To earn the party, the students have to have tallies left over at the end of the day. They start with 10 tallies each day, which I draw on the board just above the puzzle pieces. They lose tallies if I have to wait for them or if they are not following our classroom rules. Since everyone can see the tallies, everyone sees when I take the tallies away. They really respond when this happens. I do occasionally give them extra tallies if they are having a great day, and they love to see this happen. What gets me about this strategy is that it is mostly negative. I'm still working on making it a little more positive. Again, that's the challenge with classroom management.
Timers/Counting Down - I set timers all the time for my kiddos. My timer is stuck to my whiteboard so everyone can see how much time they have to finish up whatever it is. I use them to keep them on task. If we're working on a project, I'll set a timer for how much time they have left to work. I also use them for transitions. For shorter transitions, I'll count down from 10, 15, or 20. The students know that by the time I get to zero, they need to be ready to learn.
Class Dojo - Class Dojo has really engaged my classroom. There are many differing views of this program, (Here's one I read recently.) but I personally believe Dojo has been a good thing for my classroom. Here's the thing, I keep my Dojo points completely private. The only people who see how many points the kiddos earn are me, the child, and their parents (if they so choose). The children know when I'm giving and taking points away because of the sound effects, but they rarely know who I'm giving or taking from. It does get them thinking though. Often, when they hear the sound effects, I see behaviors changing. At the end of each day, I announce who our Dojo Star was (the kiddo with the most points). That person gets to choose from the treasure chest and gets entered into the Monday Lunch Club drawing. On Fridays, I draw a name from my Monday Lunch Club bucket (a bucket with the week's Dojo stars' names). That child gets to choose two friends with which to eat lunch with me in the classroom on Monday. At the end of the day, I often show my children their reports. Again, this is all private. It gives us a chance to talk about what they did well and what areas they need to work on.
Too Noisy - This is a fun little app I have on my iPad. I haven't had too many opportunities to use this (since we rarely have school anymore.....winter.....), but the kiddos loved it the last time I got it out. Essentially, it takes in the noise level of the classroom and moves the speedometer to match. If it stays in the green, the little guy stays happy; however, as it moves toward red, the little guy becomes progressively upset. The cool thing is you can adjust the sensitivity to match whatever you feel is appropriate for the activity. I think there's going to be a bit of adjustment time with this app. My students, of course, found it fun to make the little guy upset. This didn't surprise me (I do know my students), and I think that now, since they have experimented with it, I can lay down my expectations and it will be a useful tool.
I'm sure there are things that I do that I have forgotten about. Classroom management is never-ending, and it definitely changes throughout the year. Coming into kindergarten, I thought I was prepared for the management part of teaching and was ready to jump into the content. I was wrong - very, very wrong. My year has gotten significantly better though. In fact, my principal recently said to me, "You have a fantastic handle on an outrageously difficult group." Now, there are many days when I feel this is not the case, but I feel I'm closer to that than I ever was.
Tomorrow, I'll share some of my individual strategies!