I honestly don’t know how to start. I don’t know when it happened, but I can tell you when I recognized what HAD happened. In January, I saw a class that had slowly taken over. They were being unkind to one another, interrupting instruction constantly, the noise level was massively too loud, injuries were occurring because no one was keeping their hands to themselves or controlling their bodies. My classroom had turned into a place where I felt frustrated, angry, and disappointed. The only person to blame was…ME. I had gotten so busy in the data, curriculum, pulling groups, and carrying on instructionally to notice that routines, procedures, and expectations had completely vanished.
I had to make changes immediately in order to take back control of my classroom. After all, there are 20 six and seven year olds in the room, and they needed the routines, procedures, and expectations. But, since I hadn’t enforced them, they assumed they were no longer important.
What are your classroom expectations? I had them clear in my mind and spoke about them often, but the kids didn’t know exactly what they looked like until I created visual cards with the words. I printed them on magnetic paper and have them on my white board. I also decided that I wanted a digital version as well for station rotations, etc.
While the charts and displays are wonderful, it isn’t effective unless we talk about them and remind students of what we want from them. I use them kind of like a checklist. “Are you criss-cross? Is your body still? Are your eyes on the speaker?” When we don’t do something right, we immediately practice. See more about the digital display and printable chart by clicking here.
2. Morning Meeting
It sounds totally cheesy, but we literally get in a big circle, say good morning to one another and go over our schedule for the day. If our regular schedule is going to be different, I let them know up front at 7:55 so they can prepare. This is also a time where I go over our kindness challenge for the day as well.
3. Kindness Challenge
Each week I challenge my students to think of others. We try to do small things, like ask someone how their day is going or compliment people we see outside our classroom. We have also had students ask questions to adults like “What are you doing this weekend?”. It has helped build conversation skills and communication between our classroom and the school. When I hear or see students participate in the challenge, they earn a piece for our class incentive chart. I use the classroom incentive charts from True Life I’m a Teacher. She has a HUGE bundle full of fun charts. Click here to read more about them on her site. When they earn all the pieces, we celebrate as a class with whatever board it is. (Play dough – 15 minutes of free dough time. Cookie jar – cookie party. )
4. Parent Communication/Relationships
Of course, building relationships with students and parents is important. Making sure the students know you love them and want the best for them is a requirement for them to grow and thrive in your classroom, but putting extra effort in with parents is also important. They have to be your number one fans and supporters. Apps like Dojo make this easier. You can post pictures of the classroom happenings, or message them all at once or individually. I also make a choice which not everyone agrees with. I call and text from my personal cell phone. My husband HATED this idea. He probably still does, but here’s why I choose to do this…parents answer when they know it is me. They respond to my messages immediately, and they take action. They know they can call or text me whenever they need to, and I will do the same. When we have classroom concerns, we call IMMEDIATELY. I don’t wait until my planning. I let the student speak to his/her parent so that child can know that the chosen behavior is not ok. This results with the parents being on my side. We can both tell our sides of the story and get a quick response from parents. I need them to have my back, but I also know that their child is always going to be their favorite and rightfully so. We have to work together or else I won’t get anywhere with their child.
5. Focus on Small Achievements and Reteach
Reward, redirect, reteach…repeat. It is a constant cycle when you are trying to regain control of your classroom. You reward the positive things you see either verbally or tangibly. Kids need praise and they crave stuff. Give them what they want when they meet your desired outcomes. What happens when things are going badly? In room 507, we stop immediately and come to the floor for another circle time. We talk about it, discuss why it can’t be done that way, and then practice the right way. I try to do “2 glows and a grow” so we focus on the positive, but sometimes things are just yucky and not praiseworthy. Being part of a family and classroom community means we all have to handle the tough conversations.
6. Teach Kids How to Ask for Things
Do you need a break? Ask for it! Do you need food? Ask for it! Do you need a nap? Ask for it! Teaching at a school where not all my students come to school with their basic needs met, I have to teach them how to ask for things. I didn’t know that you didn’t get supper last night…you have to ask me for extra fruit during reading time. I didn’t know you didn’t sleep well because you share a room with your baby brother…ask me for a nap and I will get you a pillow. Read more about my Cool Down Corner here.
Be All In!
I’m in teaching for the long haul. I love my students, my school, my community, and our district. I want to see a positive change and growth in my room. For that reason, I try to be “All In” when I’m at work. I pull books that focus on emotional learning while building reading units, and I make sure that in everything I do, I have a good attitude. Teaching is hard. I’ll never act like any of this is easy. I am happy to say that after two HARD months, things are looking much better in our classroom. Kids are back exceeding expectations, and we are back rocking and rolling. The wheels might fall off again Monday morning, but we will keep on trying to put them back on. What advice do you have? Share your tips, tricks and ideas below!