Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Classroom Management: MEGA Chart

Hi friends. Welcome back.

Page visits, comments, and the like are at a bit of a slump this month. It probably has something to do with the fact that I really have been slack on the upkeep of this site throughout August.

Alas, here is something that I hope will get you commenting! Way back in June a linky party started up over at Miss Kindergarten's. You probably know this already because you have posted your fabulous ideas there already. Old news, I know. The New news is this one that I am about to share.

NEW? Well, it's new for me, it's new for my class, and it's new for the teachers that are at my school adopting it into their teaching. It's like a ladder system that many of you have shared but I call it my MEGA Chart.
Everybody's alright ;)

It goes like this:

Before the MEGA Chart, I was extremely dissappointed to keep reading comments back from other teachers that students were off-task, calling out, playing around, "had no ears" (direct quote, no offence to people who have no ears), and there was even a comment that some of the boys were pulling each other's pants down! C'mon, REALLY? Yeah...and these had gotten gradually worse over the past weeks. Something had to be done.
My MEGA Chart is an individual-based consequence and reward system that is SUPER adaptable into different environments. I use it with 11-13 year olds and it has made an awesome improvement so far. If you have kids that go away to another teacher for another subject (or another teacher comes into your room to teach them) make sure you read the black part at the end so I don't BORE everyone else with it now. I need to keep them all as long as I can...

Way to go, guys!

What I do differently is this. The MEGA Chart is not an immediate response to actions. It's summative. I know a lot of teachers use it as a way to instantly correct behaviour and there is nothing wrong with that but I wanted moving up and down on this chart to be a pretty big deal. Instead, it is reactive to an overall impression that would sum up their behaviour.

While using their manners is very nice (and for some of my students it can be a real accomplishment), it won't usually get them up to Great. Expected behaviour does not move their name. Positive behaviour moves their name UP. Negative behaviour moves them down. Each tier has it's own consequence. If you are in an awesome school that has their students divided into houses/teams, the buy-in can be pretty easy. Just using your own class rewards will work, too. Magnificent at the end of the day = 5 pts, Excellent = 3 pts, Great = 2 pts, Alright = 1 pt.

Yep. Even if they don't move at all, they get a point. If they move down, you can have your own consequences but mine are a graduation through school-wide consequences. I don't like to keep kids in at lunch but sometimes, a moment away from their peers to have a conversation with me is all it takes to get them back on track. (As I explained what would happen at each Strike, I told them "You don't even want to KNOW what Strike 4 means...". They got the idea that it would be pretty terrible and left it at that.)

With my kids that go to other teachers, getting those teachers to record the "Stars" and those who misbehave in a little notebook is all I need to make sure the behaviour transfers to other classes and playing in the yard. when they return, I make a deal about those who have moved up and quietly move others down. A beautiful side effect is that it shows the students that the teachers are all on the same page and supportive of each other and the consequences are consistent across the subjects.  

The results:
It has been two days and this MEGA Chart is creating a bit of a stir. Students have been (mostly) on task, (generally) following instructions, and (as a whole) WAY easier to teach. This isn't just MY opinion. the teachers that take my class have noticed a change. Some students that were historically difficult have come back to class excited that they were written down as a star! That is success!

The sceptic will say "it's a honeymoon period. Give it a couple weeks" and they are right. What will happen in a few weeks when they get over the system is yet to be determined but I believe a system can last as long as the teacher's motivation to maintain it. I like to think I'm pretty motivated.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

General Health Warning: Be Your Best

In the spirit of sharing, I've got something for you all. Here in New Zealand, the days are getting l-o-n-g-e-r, the weathers getting brighter and the temperature is going up, up, UP! While this sounds lovely, there's an unfortunate link between this weather trend and a ScArY reality for many students. Affecting millions of children around the world, the fading of winter brings a sudden and infectious onset of Springus Feveritis.

I find myself now wrangling kids who have a seamingly unsatiable need to make strange noises, poke, prod, push, pull, and pester. It's not their fault. I know that. But sheesh, can they just give the giggling a break for a FEW MINUTES?!  

Anyways, here's a quote I came across in in a friend's classroom and asked if I could use it. He didn't mind much since he borrowed it, too. I introduced it last week and I feel like it's just what the doctor ordered.

I love its message and I love the delicious simplicity of it. No elaborate decoding, no real tough words, and no phone-a-friend required, just short, simple, punchy, and powerful. I love it. Like "together, everyone achieves more", the message is in line with the word it stems from and kids of all ages should be able to get it...even with the most severe case of Springus Feveritis!

The beauty of this is that all you beautiful Northern Hemispherers can use this as a sort of preventitive measure. Think of it like a flu vaccine for your sanity. Who could say no to that?
Now, neither of us know the quote's origin so if you know where it is from, let me know and I can reference the author. I like to give credit where it's due.

Speaking of credit, the font is Cajun Boogie (http://www.typenow.net/) but the graphics are my own doing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

So Jealous!

This is but a wee one to let you all know how GREEN with envy I am at the moment. I could plaster this on each of your blogs but your numbers are far too great and I would never finish...

...but you know who you are. You energised and excited interior designers that are filling the blogrolls far and wide with Befores and Afters and Works in Progress. Posting pictures about how you are laying out your reading corner and your clutter-free desk, you really don't know what bittersweet torture this is for me, do you?

Yes, even MY OWN BLOGROLL is against me as it taunts me daily with updates, eager ambitions, and glorious creative projects that would have made my life so much easier if you had only posted them back in January.

Oh, the inhumanity of it all!

Don't you worry though. Seasons change and in a few months, you will be in the thick of it and I will be bombarding you all with updates of my classroom as it was, as it will be, and every painstaking step of the way. You will cry out "I wish I was setting up my classroom!" just as I am now. And in that moment, you will know but a fraction of my suffering. For I am only one, and you far, far, FAR outnumber me!

But I guess what I am saying is "be kind". Have some decency about all this inspiration you are throwing around. Be considerate about how carelessly you fling around those countless moments of brilliance... because you're making it hard to concentrate!

...but if you are one of those people or are looking for some of these ideas that I am ranting on and on and ON about, please check out my blogroll and visit these brilliant people. Tell them I sent you. Then tell them I was talking about them! Cheers!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Literacy Passport, pt 2: Independent Reading

The next few entries in this series will expand on my approach to the Daily 5. Today's component is:

1. Independent Reading - This is a gorgeous, relaxing getaway for two - you and a book! Just as it sounds, students get the opportunity to cozy up with a book and read quietly to themselves.

Independent Reading is not a complicated task and students are not responsible for much in the time provided. Students self-select a text that the "PICK", they record the date and the title, they read, and finally (and the most challenging) they think about what they have read. That's it! C'est ca!

I intentionally ask for very little from my students in this time so they can read as much as possible. In a 30 minute window, a lot of reading can be enjoyed. Once you ask student to record answers on worksheets about their writing, time that could have been spent on reading skills is lost. I think it is just as effective to have a casual conversation with the student.

I guess what it comes down to is a very simple, yet potentially heated debate.

What's more meaningful: a daily dose of one to two written sentences that respond to a predetermined set of questions, or an verbal conversation where questions can respond to the preceding answers? 28 minutes of reading and a 2 minute conversation, or 20 minutes of reading and a 10 minute response exercise?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Literacy Passport, pt 1: Adapting The Daily 5

As promised, here's an update to how I am integrating the Daily 5 into my teaching practice.

I have chosen to refer to my literacy approach as the Literacy Passport (I can hear the collective 'ooooh, tell me more' of teachers everywhere). I like the analogy of literacy learning as a journey with stops along the way. An eager traveller is always seeking new sights and adventures and a lifelong learner should approach reading in the same way. Excited to broaden their experiences, globetrotters enjoy where they are but are always looking ahead to where they can go to next. Developing readers and writers look forward to what they can do next to improve their skills.

 The Literacy Passport draws upon this metaphor. A passport is ongoing record of where travellers have been. Similarly, students monitor what they have done each week (or pronounced "where they have been"). It is not good enough to simply stay at one activity; a diverse range of experiences provide a broader understanding of the world. You won't really know what it is like in Spain unless you go there. That's why a range of activities build a fluency that is unobtainable by simply doing one activity over and over. As a teacher, I'm kinda like their travel agent. "Oh, this would be a great place to check out this time of year." I can show them fun places to go, but in the end, it's their decision.

So where can they go? For that, we will need a few brochures. (if you think this next little bit looks vaguely familiar, I modified it from this earlier post. Shhhh.)

1. Independent Reading - This is a gorgeous, relaxing getaway for two - you and a book! Just as it sounds, students get the opportunity to cozy up with a book and read quietly to themselves.

2. Reader's Theatre - This is a real fun adventure that you can enjoy with friends! Students get to choose a script, become a character, and read through it using voice and expression.

3. Just Write -This is the trip that you control! There are no boundaries when you are writing from your head and limits are endless! Fight dragons, save a dying unicorn, or recount your weekend, students write whatever you like...just write.

4. Writing Right - This is the place for real personal challenge! Students work on editing a text's  vocabulary, punctuation, spelling and more. 

 So there you have it. These are the activities that students are expected invited to visit each week. The order is up to them, as long as they get through each stop. Get your passports ready. This is the final call for Literacy Express. ALL ABOARD!

(Source Disclaimer: I am by no means trying to take credit for this program. As I post this series, I will continue to use the Daily 5 label but will be using the Literacy Passport title. The Daily 5 structure was a springboard off of which I have re-launched previous literacy activities I had been running. This should appease the copyright folks and also make these posts easier to follow for teachers who are investigating the implementation of an adapted Daily 5 program, beit mine or any other form. If you or someone you know are considering a Daily 5 approach, consult the book for more information. If you curious about other things I've said about the Daily 5, click here. Of you like what you found here, share it, follow it, or comment below...Better yet, do all THREE! Phew!)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Matt Damon speaks for teachers.

In case you haven't seen or heard this, I thought I would share it along. It doesn't really require a whole lot of explaining. Feel free to comment on it below.

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