Teacher Responses

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A new teacher writes...

Hey! I wanted to let you know of a few things I started this week that have been working BEAUTIFULLY:

  1. Bell on pen for page number (my friend & I went out & bought one right after last week's conference)
  2. Question on a sticky note during writer's workshop/other times I'm helping students
  3. Rainbow behavior chart....this was what FINALLY worked with my language arts group where I have 20 kids that I only see during that time for about 2 hours.

This was a GREAT week!

Desiree J.

It's always nice to hear that the ideas I share during seminars are being used successfully by teachers across the grade levels.

1. The origination of the Page Pen mentioned above was the subject of an Interaction Thought, Birth of a Notion. It's a fun little toy that I've really come to enjoy and something I now use during seminars. I just wish I had thought of it while I was still in the classroom.

Anyway, I decided to create a shorter, three-step, how-to page so that teachers can make their own. Check it out and see what you think. (Tell the people at Michael's Arts & Crafts that Rick said to say Hi.)

2. I've been sharing the "sticky note during writer's workshop" strategy during seminars for the past couple of months. It's one of the ideas found in the book, Tools & Toys: Fifty Fun Ways to Love Your Class. You can learn about this easy-to-use strategy by reading, or printing out, the PDF version of the page from the book.

3. The Rainbow behavior chart--what I call the Clip Chart--is a terrific idea for elementary teachers. It's been addressed a few times on the blog but is deserving of eBook treatment.

So, other than the previous blog entries which I've reprinted below, I devoted the remainder of the time I normally spend on writing the blog to the completion of the Clip Chart eBook.

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Thank you for invigorating me

A teacher writes:

I am a first-year teacher in a 1st grade classroom. I attended your presentation yesterday and I just wanted to send you a quick email of appreciation.

Your presentation yesterday was not only entertaining but had an immediate impact on me. I have been worn out and lose my voice at least two times a week. Of course I love my job and know that I was born to be a teacher, but I was very refreshed from your presentation. I took to heart much of what you said and put it into action first thing this morning with my 1st graders.

Instead of standing at the door and reminding them over and over again of what they need to do in the morning (turn in their homework, take out their snack, hang up their backpack, etc.) I just stood at the door and said good morning and walked around the room.

As a result, my students were all in their seats completing their "Morning Work" (which I had written on the board) in record time. They did not just "tune out" the over and over again of what I was saying but actually just went with our routine. It made for a much more pleasant and calm start to my day which, in turn, made a huge difference in the climate of the classroom for the rest of the day. Thank you for reinvigorating me!

A New Management Tip o' the Hat to this teacher. You are to be congratulated for taking a risk and allowing your students to learn the fine art of self-determination.

After all, it's one thing to expect more from your students. It's another to get out of their way so that they have an opportunity to provide it.

Way to go.

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Ice bag in the 'fridge

Teacher (email suggestion):
I keep a number of those blue first-aid ice bags in the small refrigerator in my room. Whenever a student has suffered some minor injury, I allow them to get an ice bag to put on the wound.

(Let's assume she's not talking about a severed artery.)

The ice bag helped to limit trips to the nurse. It's also eliminated the whining that sometimes occurred when students had a boo-boo. They'd just go get an ice bag and heal themselves.

Granted, the ice bags were overused at first. They wanted to get one for just about anything and everything. But that was just further evidence of the whole power and novelty thing you talked about. Within a couple of weeks, though, everyone calmed down and used the ice bags only when necessary.

(She's referring to the five basic needs as identified by Bill Glasser. Power and fun--and novelty is a form of fun--are two of those five needs. These two needs can sometimes cause students to go overboard with a new idea you've just introduced.)

More than anything, ice bags are a simple way for me to demonstrate how much I care about my students.

Enough said.

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Tell me about kindergarten

During my opening remarks at a seminar, I happened to mention that I had visited a friend's kindergarten room the day before. It was the first day of school for our district and I went into the classroom after lunch to introduce the Kcons concept to her students. I thought it would be beneficial for me to get some first-hand experience. (Boy, did I.)

Anyway, during one of the breaks, a teacher came up to me to ask me a question. She started off by saying that she was going to be a new kindergarten teacher. She wanted to know if I had some words of wisdom about kindergarten students that she could take back to her school.

Without too much pause, I told her that it was important to bear in mind that many of her students are going to arrive in class having spent the past five years living with adults who don't really mean what they say. I told her that she would be able to recognize these students right away because they will be the ones who don't respond immediately when asked to do something.

Kindergarten Reality
While I was waiting in the classroom for the teacher to bring the students in at the conclusion of lunch recess, I noticed three boys who came into the room on their own. (There are two classroom doors, both of which were open. The teacher, however, was standing near the north door as she waited for everyone to line up to go in. The three boys, toward the back of the line, came in the south door.) They immediately walked into a play area that had a variety of interesting objects and began to mess with some of the stuff. One boy was turning a lamp on and off repeatedly while another one began picking up pieces of a kitchen set. The third boy was just kind of hanging back watching the other two.

Speaking calmly to the three boys:
Boys, you need to go outside and line up.

Right away, the boy who had been watching the other two turned and walked outside. The other two boys turned their backs to me and continued to do what they had been doing. It was pretty obvious they were going to wait until some adult either raised a voice or threatened them with punishment if they didn't do what was asked. I did neither.

Getting down on a knee between the two of them:
Boys. I said that you need to line up outside. Do that now, please.

Well, one boy went outside but the other continued to play with the lamp. I put a gentle hand on his shoulder and turned him so that he was facing me.

In a calm but deliberate manner:
Young man. You are not obeying.

Young man
In typical denial mode:
But I want to stay in here.

Keeping it personal and direct:
You may not. You need to listen to my words and follow my directions the first time you hear them. Go outside, please.

He finally stopped what he was doing and went outside. I made it a point, though, to talk with him privately several times over the next hour or so in an attempt to hold him accountable for both listening and obeying. By the end of my short time with the class, he had begun to realize that Mr. Morris is not like his mom or dad. Mr. Morris is serious when asking but never rude or disrespectful. I fully expect that by the time I've made two or three visits, this little guy will begin to show a change in behavior and become more compliant.

Keys to success:

Key #1: Keep it focused. It would have done little good to make general comments about lining up outside and then try to shoo them out the door. What works is when you engage these students in non-emotional, one-on-one, conversations. (And by conversations, I mean close together with some kind of indication that the student is paying attention to the teacher's presence. In fact, I actually had to ask him to look at me when I was talking to him since he was desperately trying to avoid eye contact: more denial behavior.) It's also important that the conversation reflects directly upon the student's own behavior and not general class behavior. I want to talk about behavior being exhibited by the student himself and leave him with the unmistakable impression that I was: 1) speaking specifically about his non-compliance; and 2) wasn't going to ignore or overlook it.

Key #2: Be patient. We're going to be working with these kindergarteners all year long. There's no need to try to fix every problem right away. That would be impossible anyway. What is possible is to work on little things in a consistent and calm fashion. Important point: It's the accumulation of little things that lead to big things. By dealing with these types of non-compliance issues in this manner, the students are able to slowly accept this new reality--the adults in this classroom mean what they say--and adapt to it. Your patience, though, is critical. After all, they've been through five years of bad conditioning which has led to the development of inappropriate behavior patterns. Just keep reminding yourself that you can't fix it overnight but it is possible over time.

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Magnetic tiles from craft foam

Teacher (email suggestion):
I really liked the numbered hexagons with a strip of adhesive on the back side that you demonstrated during the workshop. Unfortunately, I didn't have any hexagons in my math manipulatives. So, I made my own. I used an Ellison die that punches out six hexagons at a time and used craft foam for the material. Not only could I use any color I wanted, but the foam hexagons really stick to our magnetic white board.

Very cool.

Ellison die

Ellison web site

Craft foam

Craft foam web site

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Book recommendation

Principal (email question):
Seven of my teachers were with you at yesterday's seminar in La Habra. They are all raving about the great day that they had with you! Several of them have told me about a book that you highly recommend. They said that you told them that everyone who is teaching should read this book.

Last year we read The Art and Science of Teaching by Marzano in a collegial book club. Pretty dry, but good content and a great springboard for conversation. I have been looking for a new book for the coming year all summer, have read several, but none have really grabbed my attention in the way I am hoping for, so I would love your recommendation.

The book I can't recommend highly enough has to do with discipline. It's called Setting Limits in the Classroom and was written by Robert MacKenzie. It is, without a doubt, the best book I've ever read on the subject. His ideas, which are logical and easy to understand, will have a real impact upon how your teachers interact with their students.

One of the things I like most about the book is that it's real. More practice than theory, it's filled with actual observations the author has made of teachers trying to deal with typical student misbehavior.

MacKenzie states that most misbehavior is just limit testing which is a very healthy way to look at things.

By reading these observations, your teachers will come to realize that being punitive or permissive--the two most common discipline styles--just won't work. The secret is action. This is based on the fact that children, as Piaget discovered, learn through their experience. It's not what they hear that changes their behavior but what happens to them as a result of their behavior that has a lasting impact.

I realize that books on discipline are not a normal choice for staff study; nonetheless, you can't go wrong here. If you're going to order a set for your teachers, you might want to try half.ebay.com. They have the new edition for $9.00 a copy. The first edition--still a great book--is just a buck!

Setting Limits in the Classroom on half.ebay.com



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