2 minute clean up and inspection

This is another classroom management tip I picked up recently, but not at the webinar. On Wednesday I spent the morning observing a teacher who teaches grade 5 at a different school. It was a very relaxing day and it was amazing to see some of the things he does in his classroom. The one that I have tried so far with my class was the two minute classroom clean-up, followed by inspection before dismissal.

Mrs. W and I have been bemoaning the paper and pencils, oh the pencils! that get left on the floor when class is done. I was tired of having the classroom look like a hurricane had come through at the end of the day, despite asking “Everyone, please pick at least 6 things off the floor and tidy up your desk” at the end of the day. It just wasn’t working.

So the idea with the 2 minute clean up is to give them 2 minutes – he used music and I think I’ll do the same once I decide on a song – to clean the classroom up and then we inspect the floor to see that everything is picked up. If I find something, they owe me 2 minutes at recess. It turns it in to a kind of game. I walk around the classroom during the inspection with my nose up in the air, pretending to inspect flecks of dirt as they hold their breath and try not to giggle. I’ve only done it for two days but my goodness I’ve never seen our classroom so clean! The janitor even commented on it today. It gives me a nice relaxed feeling at the end of the day when I see the classroom so tidy.

How do you encourage your students (or children or spouses) to clean up?


Classroom Management tips – 2 by 10

In continuing with the classroom management tips from the webinar by Rick Smith that I mentioned on my post on Sunday, today I’d like to talk about a simple but effective way to help with classroom management. Rick Smith called it the 2 by 10 strategy, not to be confused with a 2 by 4 strategy, which would be completely different.

The basic idea is that you ensure that you spend at least two minutes each day for at least ten days having a positive and personal (g rated) conversation with your most challenging student. He mentioned that it should be g-rated, and while he didn’t explain why, I think that it’s important that students understand what topics are acceptable to talk about at school with teachers and what are not. Research has shown that if you do this for ten days that there will be a huge improvement in your classroom environment.

I do try to have many little conversations with my students, especially first thing in the morning as they are coming in. I have been making more of a conscious effort to have these conversations with some of my more difficult students, both because of this webinar, and also a post by a blogger that I follow, Matt Ray. I have so many students who need that extra attention. It’s hard to pick one student who is my most challenging so I’ve been spreading out those minutes as best as I can. I hope that it will have a positive influence on my classroom.

Tomorrow I’m going out to another school to observe another grade 5 teacher teach his literacy block. I’m looking forward to this chance to see how someone else teaches literacy and gather up some ideas for my classroom. We also have an afternoon session with the other school that we are combining with when our new school is built led by our former principal. I’m looking forward to it.

Classroom Management Tips – Visual Reminders

On Wednesday I and several other teachers from my school participated in a webinar by Rick Smith about Classroom Management techniques. It was a great webinar with a lot of useful information. I am going to share a few of the ideas that were discussed as well as how I am using those techniques in my classroom over the next week.

The first one that I implemented this week was the use of visual rubrics and visual reminders. For me, this started on Thursday morning when I put up my bell work and homework on my SMART Board for my students. Normally I write out a quick note, write their homework and remind them of what they should do first thing in the morning. Normally a few of my students will check the board and get straight to it while I deal with administrative things like collecting permission slips and having those first thing in the morning conversations with my students as they enter the classroom, but many students ignore the board and have to be reminded of what they’re supposed to be doing.

Thursday, my board looked something like this.

Good morning grade 5!


Reading logs due tomorrow.




Pizza orders due Wednesday.

Bell Work:

After your outdoor things are all put away, please find your group, get out your materials and find a spot in the room to work quietly on your Social Studies project.


And amazingly enough, more students noticed the board and more students were talking about making sure they had all the correct materials, just like in the picture.

This worked very well for having them get out their Social Studies work and getting to work on their projects. Did it help with remembering to bring in their reading logs? Not so much. I only had 5 students out of 26 pass them in on time on Friday! So I’m going to need to think up something else for that.

The other visual reminders that I put in place on Friday were about keeping our classroom clean. In the webinar, Rick Smith talked about how students can use visual cues to help them remember what the space is meant to look like. He gave many examples of ways these visual cues are used in classrooms as well as at home. The idea being that the child can match the space to the way it looks in the picture.

I would like to show some of the pictures I used on Friday but my memory card seems to be having some issues. I’ll try to upload them later.

Again, the pictures worked pretty well. The book baskets were all lined up nicely at the end of the day and the shoe racks were fairly neat. We needed to talk a little more about the closet space. That’s a tricky one though because there are so many of them, the closet does get over crowded with jackets and ski pants and hats and mittens and things do get knocked down, but we also had a good talk about how it is all of our responsibility to make sure our classroom is clean so even if it isn’t our jacket or our paper, we still should pick it up so we can all have a nice space to work in and so that no one’s jacket gets stepped on and wet on the floor.

The last visual reminder is in the form of a rubric. I haven’t fully implemented this one yet, but we talked about it with our students and we took some pictures to create it. A rubric is a sort of assessment tool. It shows a scale from what the highest expectations are, down to a complete lack of effort. Before the webinar, I had never thought of using a rubric in terms of classroom management but it makes a lot of sense. The idea is to take a picture or just have the class practice over and over, showing what it looks like to be listening with attention or to be lining up to go somewhere or to be doing any number of routines. We focused on listening with attention on Friday. I had them go on a scale from 1-5 showing what not listening with attention at all looks like (they loved practicing this!) up to everyone in the class showing me what it looks like to be listening with attention. They enjoyed practicing this. It’s like a game. At each stage, 1-5, I took some pictures of the class and I’m going to put them together in a presentation to show them and talk about it again on Monday.

Throughout the day, when I needed their attention I would hold up my fingers and say “I think we’re at a 3 right now, can you show me what a 5 looks like?” And for the most part they did it. Their stamina for holding that attention isn’t always where it should be (they should be able to keep that attention for 10 minutes at this age) but we’re working on it. Just like building their stamina for reading. (Which, side note, is going extremely well)

Later in the week I’ll share a few other tips that we learned at this webinar. Have you ever used visual reminders? How did you use them?

I’m so proud

I’m so proud of my students. Friday we had a few moments where I was just beaming from ear to ear with pride about how well my students are doing.

First off, we started our presentations for Social Studies. I had my students choose an ancient civilization and each Monday I give them a topic, each Friday we do presentations. This may change though because the presentations took too long. We ended up going right through our French period when I was hoping to finish them in half an hour. But they did a really good job, both of presenting and of listening with attention, one of our main goals that we’re working on.

Which brings me to my second thing that made me proud. Mrs. W came up with the idea of writing out our classroom expectations again, talking them over with the class, having the class sign it and then posting it in the room. They’ll also be posted on our class website and I put some information about them in our classroom newsletter that went home. We want them to know that they’re going to be held accountable for these expectations and that if they aren’t following the expectations that they agreed to and signed, that the consequences will be an after school detention with a meeting with their parents. That may sound harsh but we made it clear with our students that we need to have a classroom environment that is safe and supportive. Anything else and it makes it difficult for people to learn. Now some students are going to need reminders. And it’s not like the first time they don’t follow an expectation it’s an automatic after-school; more like if they are given a reminder and a chance to turn around their behaviour and choose not to, then we’ll arrange an after-school.

What made me proud was how well they were able to talk about this subject and how readily they have taken to it. A few students who have bucked the expectations in the past seemed very on-board. Granted it was Friday and they tend to be at their best on Fridays, but still, it was a moment of pride for me to think about how far they’ve come since the beginning of the year.

But best of all, the thing I am the most bursting with pride about is how well they’re taking to the Daily 5 and how quickly they’re building their stamina. As I said in an earlier post, they’re very excited about the English books and having built those good reading strategies while reading French books, building their stamina with English books was almost unnecessary. We went back to the beginning, made our I chart, talked about strategies for reading but the actual building of stamina and good skills for reading the whole time was already there, so right from the start I’ve been able to read with students 1 on 1 and Mrs. W has been able to do reading records on them so that we can get a good feel of where they are. I was so proud to be able to tell my principal that, after only 1 week of Daily 5 that they’re already able to read for 25 minutes and I’ve really only been stopping them so that I can do another mini lesson and do something else.

Writer’s Workshop has been slower to get started. They aren’t all as eager to write as they are to read. I’m hoping that over time this will change. After all, writing is my big passion so I can hope that this will be infectious as I share my love for writing with them. They were pretty impressed when I told them I’m a writer, even just as a hobby. I’m thinking of getting a printing of my children’s NaNo novel done so I can have a copy to share with them in the classroom. I think they would enjoy that. But there is still so much editing that I would like to do on it first.

Overall, I’m very pleased with how our first week of English went. It was a lot of work getting everything ready and I still don’t feel on top of everything but I know that this will come. For now, I’ll just enjoy the weekend and the glow of feeling proud.

Former students

A few former students stopped by school yesterday. It was great to see them, to see how much they’ve grown, how much they’ve changed, one I didn’t even recognize at first because his hair had grown so much! I’m glad that I’m still at the same school and that the middle school where my former students go is so close. I like to see and hear about how they’re doing.

Even though I’m still in the same city as the school where I first taught, I’m on the other side of the river and so I don’t get to see my students from there as often. Every once and a while I’ll run into a student downtown or out and about but for the most part I feel disconnected from those former students and I feel sad about that. I’d like to know where they are and what they’re doing.

I recently found out some not so great news about a former student though and it’s weighing heavily on my mind. There are times when I here things about former students that aren’t great. I hear that this one was suspended or that that one changed schools and I feel sad. I heard that one of my former students is having a hard time and is depressed and, I can only speculate from what I was told, was being bullied very badly and this student tried to deal with it in what I consider the worst way possible, but perhaps this student felt it was the only way. And I feel every time I hear these things that I have failed my students.

I know that I’m not a fairy godmother and I can’t wave my magic wand and fix all the problems in my students lives. I know that. But still it hurts so much when I feel like I didn’t do enough. But what is enough? What could I have done differently in the lives of these students to prevent what’s happening to them now? Is there anything I could have done?


Launching into English


I’m exhausted. It’s been a long weekend and I have a very full week ahead of me but I’m pushing on through.

Today was our first day switching over to English. I didn’t sleep last night and after spending four hours at school on Saturday, six hours on Sunday and most of my waking moments thinking about how today was going to go, I have to say I was more than a little nervous. Most of my time was spent sorting out my library that I inherited from past teachers, plus the books I’ve amassed at home, none of which were sorted in any particular order before being stored.

Transforming this...

More mess

... and this...

... into this.

It was exhausting. But I was mostly pleased with how it looked. I still need to put labels on the books and book baskets. That’s going to be a huge job.

My students don’t deal well with change and I was changing quite a few things today and introducing a lot. It was like September but in February and I wasn’t sure how the day was going to go. Actually, with my class I never seem to know from moment to moment how it’s going to go.

It was, in the words of another teacher, a roller-coaster kind of day. The ups were very high and the lows were pretty low, but not as bad as in my nightmares.

Some of the highlights:

  • As expected, my students are so excited about our Social Studies projects. I have them working on small projects in Social Studies, either in groups or alone, studying Ancient Civilizations. I give them a topic on Monday and they work on it all week and then present on Friday.
  • A few students told me they “missed being in French” today.
  • My word wall looks beautiful.
  • They were so excited to get their hands on the books I painstakingly placed in our over-full library.

    Look at all these books just itching to be read!

  • We launched the Daily 5 and CAFE today and they did an amazing job. We had 10 minutes of absolute, blissful concentration as they delved into their books. I didn’t want to ask them to stop.
  • I got to read aloud from the book “Greetings from Nowhere” and showed them the book trailer. They’re already hooked and didn’t want me to stop. I didn’t want to stop either.
  • We managed, with some difficulty, to sit in our reading corner to launch the Daily 5. It’s a little small and they’re a little large – 26 growing bodies in a small space meant we had to spread out a bit, but we managed it.

Overall, I’d say today was a success. I was particularly pleased with how well Daily 5 and CAFE went. I’m looking forward to adding on some time and some more strategies tomorrow. We only did one strategy, Check for Understanding, today because they read for so long and they took a long while to get settled. I think we’ll need to do some practicing of getting to and from our gathering spot quicker.

Here’s to a good night’s sleep tonight and another good day tomorrow.

At school on a Saturday

I’m giving my arms a bit of a break from moving SO MANY BOXES OF HEAVY BOOKS from the next door room where they were stored over to my classroom.

So many boxes of unsorted books.

Normally I find it a little creepy to be at school on the weekend but it’s a nice sunny day out (perfect cross country skiing weather sigh) so it’s not so bad today. So much work to be done. I’m focusing on taking down my French library and trying to sort out my English library. Lots of stuff to be moved and changed. Everything’s a mess right now. But I’m proud of my new word wall and CAFE wall.

Colourful new CAFE and Word Wall

Also, I found the book that I’m going to use for my first read aloud starting Monday. It’s called “Greeting’s from Nowhere”. It was recommended by our district as a read aloud and I used it two years ago. My students really enjoyed it. I also found a book trailer for it here. So I’ll be showing that to my students to get them interested. Also I’d like to have them do their own book trailers for books that they read as well.

More updates and pictures of my classroom later.