Thursday, September 18, 2014

Classroom Management: It's All About the Attitude

Classroom Management.  It's all about the attitude.  No, not my students' attitudes, MY attitude.
In this post, I want to share my personal journey with classroom management.
Rewards and consequences are not the center of classroom management.  You are.

The Problem
My first year teaching was rough.  The kids gave everyone in the building a run for their money and they flat out ran over me.  They didn't care about marbles, referrals, bad notes, good notes, or tokens.

My problem was the toughest cookies could give a crap about getting a yo-yo for 50 points.  It wouldn't have mattered if I had a clip chart, coupons, or cold hard cash.  Students won't care about their behavior if that's your only "go-to" when trouble knocks at the door.

I had developed a serious misconception about classroom management.  In college, we wrote out our sweet little management plans with consequences and rewards.  The kids were supposed to love school, want to earn rewards, and give up after their first warning.

Ha.  Ha freakin' ha.

I blew it that year.  And I didn't want that to every happen again.  I loved teaching, but I couldn't teach with so many issues.  I read a lot of realistic books over the summer and thought about the qualities that make a teacher good at management.  It was all in the attitude.  My classroom management improved greatly in the following years and it had nothing to do with what "management system" I used.  It had to do with my attitude.

The Solution
My focus on rewards and consequences sits far, far below my focus on attitude.  Staying upbeat about learning, not tolerating nonsense, being interested in what students are doing, and developing mutual respect with my students became #1.

Mutual respect goes a very long way.  Kids will tell you the truth.  Kids will put forth a little extra effort, just for you.  Kids will be regretful that they disappointed you.  Kids will do better.  Kids will grow as learners and people.

(Side Note: Has this worked with every student?  Almost.  Out of 70 students last year, I feel like I had almost all of them "on my side".  But there was this one student...there's always one, isn't there?  As much as I'd like to write a post about how I Stand and Deliver Dangerous Minds into Freedom Writers, I didn't with him.)

My classroom climate changed.  It wasn't me vs. them all day long.  We were on the same side pretty often.  There were issues that came up.  With 11-year-olds, that's bound to happen.  With respect on your side, you can tell a student what needs to be said about their behavior...they are just more likely to hear you.  We kept on keepin on!  It won't always be rainbows and sunshine, but we can develop positive relationships with students and they will grow!

When things aren't going so swell with my students, I ask myself some questions before going after the newest, hottest "management system".

If you want to play along, here are some questions to ask yourself:
1. What's your attitude like?
2. What are your students' attitudes like?
3. Do your students enjoy being in your class?
4. Do YOU enjoy being in your class?
5. Do you and your students have mutual respect?

I wish you all a FABULOUS school year!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Scary, Scary Output of Science Notebooks: Advice for Teachers

I get loads of questions about the Output aspect of notebooking.   {Learn more about what Output is.} If you read no further, read this:
Be flexible.

Allowing time for student output is a crucial part of science mini-lesson with notebooks.  Here is some advice I have about Output.
  • You don't have to make your students say, "I'm going to choose Acrostic for today's output." 
  • Teach them the different options for a few weeks, then set them free.
  • Model output at first.
  • Show examples of what other students are doing.  Those ideas will stay in their heads and you will see creativity increase over time.
  • Provide specific verbal feedback as you walk around.  
  • Many students will do a combination of things.  Maybe they draw and write.  Go with it!
  • Meet with students during your 10-minute Output time to check for understanding.
  • The easiest Output to start with is providing a sentence stem.
  • Drawing and doing a Quick Write about what they learned was the most popular "I Learned" page for my students.
  • You may want to encourage individual students to mix it up a bit, but forcing an Output on students doesn't end well.
  • Remember this is their time to CHOOSE how to process and apply new learning.
  • Be flexible!

    Output Idea Examples
    Four different students will have four different ideas about how to process their learning.  Output is automatic differentiation!  If the students just learned about how sedimentary rock is formed, here are four ways they might process it in their Output.

    Density Bottles Activity Fun!

    Who has goofy goggles and drinks a lot of water?  

    I know.  Insisting on drinking water out of the bottle is not my best quality, but it's true.  However, it comes in handy when it's time to get my science on.

    I planned to make density bottles with a class last week and two days before it was Go Time, Adam took them out to the recycling.  Wompity womp womp.  Like I said though, I drink a lot of water!  In the next two days, I had 22 water bottles for the activity.

    Onto the activity...
    I'm working once or twice a week in my friend's 4th grade classroom at my old school.  (BTW, she blogs at Teaching in the Fast Lane.)

    Last week, they were working on properties of matter, so we did a relative density activity to help students see new instances of sinking and floating in water.

    This took a little bit longer than normal to prep, but was so worthwhile!  I set up trays with materials for pairs of students.  I had an extra tray of beads and one of ocean animals so students could pick them out.

    Each student got a water bottle, sand, bead, ocean animal toy, water, and oil for their density bottles.
    There was already water in each bottle.  Students added a small amount of colored sand and 50ml of vegetable oil.  They dropped in their ocean animals and a beads.

    Then, we analyzed our bottles and communicated which substances and objects were less and more dense than other substances and objects.  Students drew their bottles in their notebooks and labeled the layers.  They seemed to REALLY enjoy this activity!

    Looking for the the ocean animal toys?  This is a pack of 90 that we used!

    Friday, September 12, 2014

    So Many Blog Series Posts

    I'm really into writing blog series these days instead of just one measly post about something.  In order to keep those organized here are the links and types of series posts I have.
    Time to Teach
    Time to Teach is topic-based and written regularly with great teaching and activity ideas.  These posts include video links, product links, anchor chart ideas, and activities for the given science topic.

    Science Solutions
    The Science Solutions series provides solutions to common problems in a science classroom.  Examples:
    • incorporating daily review
    • encouraging teamwork
    • students tracking data
    • making small groups
    • Science Activity Time reward system
    • assessment
    • reinforcing content vocabulary
    • what to do when you don't have much time for science
    • IEP accommodations

    Classroom Management Solutions
    The Classroom Management Solutions series focuses on easy solutions to problems I had as a new teacher.

    Science Penguin's Science Plans
    The Science Plans series has my weekly plans for the 2013-2014 school year.

    New Year, New Notebook
    The New Year, New Notebook blog series has photos of notebook entries for each unit that I normally teach!

    Wednesday, September 10, 2014

    Time to Teach: Multiple Trials

    Essential Question: What is a trial and why should we have more than one?

    This Time to Teach post is about multiple trials.  Sure, we do multiple trials during our experiments, but to help students understand the purpose of them, I have an activity that can work well with students in primary through middle school.

    I originally wrote about this activity in my Process Skills Interactive Science Notebook Pack, but I really wanted to blog about it, too.  I use two terms with students: repeated trials and multiple trials.

    Activity 1
    This first activity is geared toward younger students.

    Question: How many times will a bouncy ball bounce when dropped from 3 feet in the air?

    When students try it once, you will get all kinds of answers.  Go back and formally do 3 trials.  Record your data.  Talk about the importance of multiple trials.
    Activity 2
    This activity is geared toward older students.
    Question: Does mass of a ball affect how many times a ball will bounce when dropped 3 feet in the air?

    In this case, you're comparing data.  You can use a different type of question to make a comparison. Make sure the balls have the same volume, just a different mass (like a practice plastic golf ball and an actual golf ball).  Record the number of bounces in each trial.  Discuss the importance of multiple trials.

    Activity 3
    This activity is for older students and poses a scenario with discussion questions.  Read the scenario and analyze the data table.  Then discuss the discussion questions in teams then as a class.
    Click the pic to download from GoogleDocs.

    I hope this post was helpful!  Be sure to check out:

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