Saturday, 7 January 2017

Setting Up Classroom Rules and Expectations

Setting up classroom rules and expectations is an essential part of everyone's 'Back to School' routine. A classroom environment with clear expectations will help your year run smoothly and save you a lot of headaches!

For the past two years, I have set up my expectations in an explicit way which teaches students the expected behaviours for each. I love this system because I find it's very easy to slip into the trap of throwing phrases around such as 'Please work safely', but do students really know what that means? Unless we teach students how they can demonstrate this behaviour, then we can't expect a change or expect them to demonstrate it.

Here are 3 tips for setting up your classroom expectations;

1. Positively Worded Expectations
Expectations are set up in a positive way in an affirmation format. Positively worded phrases help establish and maintain a positive classroom environment. Rule reminders are easy; "Remember, in our class we listen to each other". I have these hung up on my 'Super Students Wall' for easy reference.

Find this here

2. Explicit Teaching - Teach expected behaviours
For each expectation, I made up a social story, which explicitly explained the ways in which students can demonstrate these expectations. Here's an example from 'We listen to each other'.

Find this here.
Students are given examples of what they need to be doing in order to be listening; they need to wait until someone has finished speaking, look at the person, keep their body still and think about what is being said. While we might think these are basic skills that they should already come to school with, we cannot assume that this is true. Each student is different and comes to school with different experiences. Teach what you want to see!

Here are some examples from the other expectations;

Find the bundle, here.

When introducing these, I focus on one expectation a day. It becomes our behaviour goal and I remind students that I am looking for students who can do it. When I see students demonstrating the behaviour, I give specific feedback e.g. "I like the way you are moving safely by walking to the floor" or "I like the way you are taking turns by giving the toy to _____". Children love praise/acknowledgment and you'll find that other students will start doing the same in order to receive the praise too.

3. Ownership
Giving students ownership is important too. An activity which builds ownership is student booklets.
Students can colour and decorate to make the booklet their own. They can be kept in chair bags, tote trays or book boxes for when they need to be referred back to. Alternatively, they can be taken home to be read and discussed with parents.

I like using these books during reflection time. Ask students "What do you need to be doing?" "What can you do next time?".

These three things should help ensure your classroom runs smoothly. Remember, expectations shouldn't just be a start of the year thing. They should be referred to as often as the need arises. If you want to see something, teach it!

I hope this post has inspired you in setting up your classroom expectations.

If you are interested in the bundle, you can find it here. It includes 7 expectation booklets and 7 student booklets.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Name Activities for Beginning of the Year

I can't believe it's 2017 already! For Australian teachers, this means that there is now only 3 weeks until the start of the new school year! Where oh where did the time go?

I've been starting to prepare some new activities to start the year off. One of the essential centers in my room for the first few weeks is a name center. Some students come to school already knowing how to spell and write their names, but a majority do not.

One of the activities that I've been using for years is the typical "trace and write" which involves students tracing their names and then having a go at writing it themselves. This is done on a laminated paper with a whiteboard marker.

This activity is great for students practising the motion of writing. However, I wanted something different that would target letter recognition and spelling. So I created these activities...

Caterpillar Names

In this activity, students build their name by finding the letters on their name card and putting them in order.

Letter recognition, text direction AND spelling targeted in the one activity. Win!

You can find this activity here.

Ice Cream Names

This is the same concept as the caterpillar game. However, students are building an ice cream from top to bottom. Once they have checked that their name is spelled correctly, they can place the topping on their ice cream.

You can find this activity here.

The best part about these two activities? They focus on the same skill but because they have different pictures, your students won't get bored of them!