It’s August 1st and that means I woke up this morning with the need to get more organized for the school year, in particular, I want to write down some of the ideas I’ve used in the past that I want to use again this year and add in some new ones as well.
1. We keep nothing in our desks
Ideally, I’d prefer to have tables with no storage space or desks without storage space. Last year, because the other grade 5 teacher I was working with had tables and had students store their supplies elsewhere, I decided to try this out as well and I loved it. In my classroom I had “cubbies” where the students could store their personal stuff and each group had a basket with supplies like pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners etc. Everything else was stored around the room.
This year, my classroom is quite different and there isn’t a lot of shelf space and no cubbies, but I do have these lovely closets where the students can hang up their outdoor clothes. I’m considering going and buying some sort of shelving unit that I can put bins on for the kids. One teacher even suggested calling it their “lockers” to make it more cool for them. One thing is for sure, I don’t want to go back to having students keep all their stuff in their desks. It’s a distraction and a waste of time.
2. A class blog/website
In former district 18 (the Fredericton area), all the schools have the same website and one of the features of the website is that each teacher also has their own website where they can upload pictures, videos, write homework, reminders, keep a calendar, all kinds of things. So for the last few years I’ve been using those for my classroom website. Last year I tried out having a class blog on top of that and it was pretty wonderful. Eventually the students stopped using it as much and I stopped pushing it. I know I would like to have a website of some sort for my students this year and am considering using Edmodo if I can learn a bit more about it. I’m not sure what kind of website I want to have, if we want to have a blog or a wiki or some combination. I want to have a space where I can easily keep families up to date on what we’re doing in the classroom and I want a space where the students can easily share their thoughts/writings/ideas/cool websites they find, which is what I think Edmodo might be good for. So maybe I’ll try out Edmodo for the students and have a wiki for the classroom to keep families in the loop.
3. Music for Transitions
This is something I always wanted to do but could never find the right music. Last year after a great PD day, I started off with one transition song. I found one “popular” song that I really like called “Fireflies” and every time we cleaned the classroom I turned it on. Eventually, I didn’t even need to tell the students it was time to clean up, I turned on the song and they would start tidying. It was great. It took some training of course but it was so worth it. I also had a few songs that we sang as part of our French routine that I will continue to use as well. I would like to add in a few more for other transitions like lining up, moving from one subject to another, getting ready for snack, things like that.
4. Class Dojo
I wrote about using Class Dojo here after trying it out for one week. I continued to use it for the rest of the year and was very pleased with it overall. Like last year, I want to give my students a sense of ownership in the classroom so I’m going to have them choose what they think the positive and negative target behaviours should be and we can re-evaluate them from time to time if needed. I like that parents can be notified easily and they can see exactly what kind of behaviours their child is doing in the classroom, both positive and negative. It’s simple to manage.
I’ve seen so many behaviour management systems that are bulky and difficult to use. For example, the ticket system that is encouraged in most Intensive French classrooms, I tried using it in different ways but there’s always problems with it. Students complain they lost their tickets/someone stole their tickets/someone brought in their own tickets, and then there’s the fact that it takes up their time to have me or some one else passing out tickets during class time. This system seems more fair. And unlike with the tickets, this is a simple points system that doesn’t need to have any tangible reward attached to it, just the satisfaction of knowing they did well. I had one student in particular that class dojo worked really well for, along with other interventions. He was so proud to see visually how his behaviour changed from one week to the next. He could see that he needed fewer reminders and I loved seeing his face light up when he saw that progress.
5. Daily 5 and CAFE
Every year I have used the same base for my literacy instruction because I love it and it works. If you’ve never heard of Daily 5 or CAFE, you can read more about it here. In basic terms, it’s a literacy framework and assessment tool where the goal is to have the students reading and writing as much as possible during the literacy block. I integrate the ideas from this system into my Intensive French teaching as well and I know that I will use it again this year. I just need to decide where my meeting corner is going to be in my classroom and start planning how I’m going to set it all up.
I have many more ideas that I’m going to be thinking through over the next three weeks in preparation for this school year. What ideas have you used in the past that you are excited to try again this year?