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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Classroom Ownership

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I want every child to have a sense of ownership in my classroom. It is important for the children to develop a sense of responsibility.  The way to do that is to give them opportunities to be responsible.

I assign classroom jobs.  There are weekly jobs that rotate so that every child is able to practice that skill.  There are jobs that are earned and there are permanent jobs that are chosen.  There are also jobs that change periodically.

The weekly jobs that rotate consist of:

  • door holder-self explanatory
  • equipment person-carries out the playground equipment and accounts for all the pieces
  • lights person-self explanatory
  • teacher assistant-This student is my go-to helper.  He/she passes out papers, puts mail in the mailboxes, stamps papers, takes notes up to the office, or any other job that pops up.
  • classroom inspector-He/she is in charge of checking to see if chairs are pushed in, desks are clean, areas are clean, helps find missing pieces, etc...

The job that is earned is the classroom star student.  This student is the line leader and assists the student teacher assistant when need be.  He/she is the substitute for the teacher assistant if the teacher assistant is absent.

Every child has a permanent position. Depending on my students sometimes the permanent position gets reassigned or I might change them out after a couple of months.  Most of these jobs are end of the day jobs and are completed after we pack up.  Some are during the day.  All are important.  Because they are so important, I like to know who is responsible for completing the jobs.  There are so many that it makes it easier on me for them to be permanent AND the students really like becoming the expert in their area.  Here is a list of permanent jobs.

  • lunch cups-changes the cups from red to green and green to red.  At my school when the cups are on red there is no talking.  When the are on green there is quiet talking.  The first ten minutes of lunch are on red so I teach the cup person how to watch the clock and then look for my signal
  • library people-several students help organize the classroom library.  Each tub is numbered and all the books in that tub need to match the number on the outside. 
  • Accelerated Reader helper-he/she organizes the AR books and answers student questions about AR.  
  • computer shut down-a student shuts down the computers at the end of the day and straightens the keyboard, mouse, and mouse pad
  • board eraser-erases all white boards
  • stick person-students have to move their stick as part of my behavior management plan.  After we have colored in our citizenship chart, the stick person moves the sticks back to where they need to be.
  • floor monitor-sweeps up the big pieces of trash with the cow broom
  • missing pieces-I have a tub for lost and found in the room.  At the end of the day, this child attempts to put back toys/tools that were left out.
  • backpacks-this person makes sure that everyone has picked up their backpack and lunch box
  • paper/clipboard person-makes sure that the paper trays are organized and the clipboards were put back neatly
  • pencil people-sharpen the community pencils in the red cup and place them in the green cup.  They also sharpen other student's special pencils at the electric sharpener.
  • glue monitor-checks to make sure all the glue bottles were closed
  • counter person-wipes down the counters and some tables with a baby wipe.
  • substitute-fills in for any student that is absent
Sometimes I add extra duties to smaller jobs like the glue they arise

The jobs that change periodically are the materials managers.  Next to each team is a three drawer bin.  Inside the bin are all the necessary math manipulatives.  The materials managers pass out and collect these manipulatives for their team.

In my post Blue Moment / Blue Day (Happy Times)  I explain about how the Star Student of the week is the line leader.  That position is earned. 

I hang a poster with the names and assigned jobs so we can all easily keep track.  This takes a little extra time to set up at the beginning of the year but it is worth it later on.  You can even have the job experts train the other person that replaces them (if they get replaced).

      On a side note, I sell on eBay and promote other sellers.  If interested check out my eBay Store: Lowery's Loft.  My username on eBay is GroovyEducator (just like this blog).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Developing Listening Skills

Even though we are busy, busy, busy teaching the curriculum, it is very important to help the children develop listening skills.  Being a good listener is a life skill. 

Many children these days have difficulty focusing and attending.  Everyday I do many short activities to augment these skills.  Being able to focus is an essential attribute of a good listener.

My theory is that if children can focus intensely on technology (e.g computer game, X-Box, etc.),  they have the capacity to focus on other things (e.g. people).

With that said, this is what I do...

I never assume a child knows HOW to listen.  During circle time, I explicitly go over what a good listener looks like what a good listener does.  We role play and practice at the beginning of the year.

I read Listen Buddy by Helen Lester.  This book really helps in explaining WHY it is important to listen.  We make a chart listing other reasons why it is important to listen.  This is an anchor chart that we refer back to as needed

I bought a poster entitled 5 Star Listener.  It is a lot like Give Me Five.  Check out the links because they are both great at teaching listening.  This year I am using the 5 Star Listener chart because I can say things like "I see three star listeners but I need five star listeners.  I like how you have your eyes on the speaker, lips closed and ears listening, but I need quiet hands and feet."  It also goes along with my behavior management plan.

Throughout the day the children have many, many, MANY opportunities to practice their listening skills.  When we start a new activity, we sing a song "Write your number, name, and date, your number, name and date.  Isn't it great to write your number, name, and date."  After that I give a direction for them to show me they are ready to move on.  For example:  "When you finish writing your number, name, and date hold up your green crayon."  If I ask them to rip out a work book page, I ask them to put their pencil under their name tag.

I often come up with a silly set of directions.  It keeps things interesting and lightens the mood.  It also shows me who listened.  "When you finish questions 1-5, grab both of your ears."  "When you finish cutting out all the pieces, point your pencil at the ceiling."   I like to do this because the kids find it fun and attend to the directions.  Also, it gives me a visual of who is working and who needs more time.

We do a listen and draw sometimes..  Everyone has a blank piece of paper (you can use scrap paper or the back of a sheet).  We all have our dividers up so no one can see our paper.  It's an independent activity.  In preparation I ask the children to get out three different color crayons (e.g. green, brown, red).  I then give oral directions on what to draw.  Before we begin I tell them that I will say each direction ONLY ONCE.  (This is a fun activity and I never give a grade.)

Here is an example:

Pick up your green crayon. (pause)
Write your name in the middle of the paper. (pause)
Pick up your red crayon. (pause)
Draw a circle around your name. (pause).
With your red crayon, draw a small circle at the bottom of your paper (pause)
Color the small circle green. (pause)
Draw a brown triangle next to the circle with your name. (pause)

After that I have the children put their crayons away and share their drawings with the people who sit near them.  I walk around and pass out a sticker or say great job to the super star listeners.

There are many other ways to develop listening skills but these are my favorites.  Please share what works for you. 

Oh! I just had a NEW idea!  I could give each child a "Who's a Good Listener" printout (with the owls-see below).  Every time they are caught being a good listener I could stamp another owl on their paper OR I could stamp a star to make it look like night time.  Hmm...the possibilities...

Colorful Owls in Pretty Tree


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hand Drawn Clip Art 2


Hand Drawn Clip Art


Hurricane Ready?

 Hurricane Isabel (Image from

It's that time of year again... The peak of hurricane season.  Right now it is a wait and see about Tropical Storm Issac.  We fall in the cone of uncertainty.  With that said, here is what I do to prepare at school.

Bins! Bins! Bins!  Hurricane Ivan was the first hurricane I experienced and it was a doozy!  Looking back, I now realize that must be where my obsession with bins and plastic originated.

I keep my centers, math supplies, reading supplies, school supplies, etc.. in plastic bins.  Okay Just about EVERYTHING is in a bin when it is not being used.

On Friday our principal came over the intercom and instructed personnel to cover all the electrical equipment with plastic.  I use the dollar plastic table cloths at Walmart to cover my computers.  The T.V., projector, and document camera are covered with plastic trash bags.  I lock the computer and iPad both wrapped in plastic in a cabinet off the ground.

Right now I am kicking myself because I usually cover all my book bins.  They are open plastic tubs that are usually used for washing dishes.  I need to buy a couple of more of those Walmart plastic table cloths to cover my classroom library.  They will probably be okay. Most are off the ground, well away from the windows, and are not pushed up against a wall.

From Hurricane Ivan, I have learned that placing items up against the interior walls is not always safe.  I thought by moving everything away from the windows, it would be protected.  Nope.  Water can make its way down the walls so it is important to move items that you do not want damaged away from the walls.

I had a doctor's appointment on Friday after school so I was unable to fully prepare my room.  I did cover the electrical equipment and do all the things the principal instructed.  I did not, however, get a chance to cover my precious books or move a couple of things away from the wall.

In planning my room, I was aware of the windows and did not place anything of value near them.  I did not want to have to move those items anytime there was severe weather.  Also, over the course of the last eight years, I have purchased numerous plastic tubs with covers to store my items in .  When I moved schools, I bought clear plastic bins instead of boxes.  I figured I could reuse them and they protect my items.

I have been teaching over a decade and have invested way too much money into my classroom, to not prepare.  I know it is just stuff but it would be hard to replace years of acquisitions.  I am a bargain hunter.  If any of my teaching tools were damaged, they would be hard to purchase again or make again.  Especially with my new baby.  I am curbing my school spending drastically to take care of my new bundle of joy.

Keeping her safe is my number one priority right now.  Let's just hope this storm does not strengthen over the warm gulf waters.  I have a queasy feeling about this one...