Thanks for the suggested blog topics! I had an e-mail asking for more specifics on my behavior management, so here goes!
I have several "levels" to my behavior management.
On an individual level, I use a clip chart. I love the clip chart because it gives kids the opportunity to move "up" for making good choices. It gives them something to strive for other than just "staying on green". I also give two tickets every Friday for a prize box drawing, but I probably will discontinue that for the coming year. You got one ticket if you did your homework all week and you got a second ticket if you never ended the day on orange or red on our clip chart. This past year, I invited kids to eat lunch with me in the room on Fridays, and I'll probably do that next year instead of the prize box. They LOVED coming in to eat with me and would do anything to get to earn it! You can check out the "C" section on the files page of my class website to download a printable "Good job" note for making it to the top of the clip chart. My clip chart phrases are available too!
I also have group rewards for my students' table groups. They are free choice minutes. Each group gets five on Monday and they can earn or lose them as the week goes on. At the end of the day on Friday, I always pass out awards to 5-6 students and then we have "free choice". However many "minutes" you have at your group, that is how long you get to play for. Some weeks, a group might have as many as 25 or as few as 5. If you are on free choice, you can use any of the games in the classroom. You can get on the computer, you can draw, you can read... it's free choice!
When you aren't on free choice, you sit silently at your seat. If you talk, your group will lose one of the minutes that you still have. Am I mean or what? :) But I promise, the kids who only had 5 minutes one week because they were chatty or off task will have 15 the following week because who likes to sit in silence while everyone else is playing?! The picture below shows my stash of "minutes" that I keep at the front of the room. Each week, a new kid in the group is responsible for being in charge of that groups' minutes. They go and get them when asked and return them when they have to give one back.
I have an overhead projector timer, so I ask each group to report to me on their minutes and I write on the board the time that the timer will display when it is their turn to play. Then I set it to the highest amount of minutes and the other kids know to watch the timer for their turn. A warning beep goes off when there are two minutes left and everyone has to start picking up as soon as they hear the "two minute warning".
Last, on a whole class level, we earn marbles for good choices. When we get 25, the kiddos vote on a marble party. I am always good at doing this at the beginning of the year, but by February or so, I usually stop giving marbles and the kids don't even notice. They love "free choice" and the clip chart, and I'm a pretty "rewardy" teacher anyway... so they don't miss the marbles. It is a nice way to help them figure out, in the beginning, what you want them to do... but I have never been able to sustain a marble jar for an entire year. Guess that means I should figure something else out, huh?
At the risk of sounding conceited, I am going to say this out loud, teacher friends, I am a very good classroom manager. My students learn very quickly what I expect them to do. They work quietly, they raise their hands, and my classroom runs very smoothly. One of the ways that I accomplish this is by talking. A lot.
I'm sure you've noticed that I am a wordy blogger... I am just as wordy of a teacher. My school is a PBIS school and I love using those techniques in my classroom. Sometimes I feel silly and repetitive, but it works... and four weeks of blabbering on in a positive way at the beginning of the year, frontloads my expectations and shows my students what they have to do to hear praise from me. My first year teaching I had an extremely challenging student, but an equally awesome principal, who helped me realize that I couldn't change my kids... but I could change how I interacted with them. And once I learned how to do that... what a difference! It takes the burden off of me to "get" them to behave. It makes my students' actions all about their own choices.
ANYWAY... here's an example:
So, I ask kids to get a pencil out, I'll also tell them to hold it up when it's ready. Then it starts... "Thanks, Johnny, for getting your pencil out right away", "Wow, Billy! I like how you heard me tell you to get your pencil out and you did it immediately. That will really help us get our work done quickly", "Thank you, Jenny, for following directions the first time I asked". As the year goes on, I still thank them for getting out their pencils, but it's just a "Thanks Johnny", "Thanks Billy", "Wow, all the kids at the red table got their pencils out right away", "I'm still waiting on a few kids to get their pencils out". You will rarely ever hear me say, "Sam! I told you to get your pencil out. Where is it?". Instead, I thank the people around Sam. If he still doesn't get the hint, I might go around and lay one "Nerd" on the desk of kids who have followed directions. If he still hasn't figured it out, I will give him a gentle reminder. (PS- if you don't own a box of "Nerds", you must invest in one! It is amazing what a wonder one tiny "Nerd" can do!)
Now, I used the pencil thing as an example. It's a very tiny thing. But in the beginning of the year, I do that for a lot of things in my classroom. Raising a hand, getting out a glue stick, remembering to make a lunch choice... and I feel so silly for being soooo longwinded with my feedback to them. BUT... my kids absolutely know what I expect them to do because I spend a lot of time giving very specific feedback to them.
And they learn that, if they follow directions, there is a *chance* that I might recognize them with a "thank you"... and they love that more than anything! I think it is all about "intermittent praise"... teaching my kids that, we just do things because it is the right thing to do but, sometimes, your teacher might recognize you for doing the right thing. My kids know that we don't always get rewarded and if they ask for a reward, they will never ever get one because "sometimes we just do things because it's the right thing to do".
Anyway, to re-cap this long long post... I have three "tiers" of behavior management in my classroom. And I use a lot of very specific and wordy praise at the beginning of the year, which turns into the same amount of praise but lots less wordy as the year goes on... unless someone needs a gentle reminder. It helps my students learn exactly what I expect, as they hear me being very explicit in my praise to others, and it encourages them to make good choices because they *might* get recognized by me for doing it.
How much simpler would it have been to just type that?! :)