Friday, August 10, 2012

August 10 for 10: A Picture Book Event

Today is the 3rd annual "August 10 for 10: A Picture Book Event," and this is the first time that I have been able to participate. Cathy at Reflect and Refine and Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning began this event in 2010 with a question: "If you were stranded on an island and had to teach, what 10 picture books would you hope to have in your bag?"

This is an incredible challenge for me, as it is for all the participants, I'm sure. Although I've been a teacher going on 14 years, this is only my 4th year in a true classroom. Before that, I didn't have much interaction with picture books the way that I do now. I don't have a very large personal library, so I check out most of my books from the school's library or the public library. My 10 books are taken from what I've noticed checking out year after year. Whether it's because the children have enjoyed them, or because I have enjoyed reading them. As I narrowed down my choices, I tended to gravitate toward those books that I will introduce at the beginning of the year. Maybe because that's where my mind is right now. However, many of them are books that can be returned to over and over again. That's what makes them good choices for my list.

1. "Pete the Cat" by Eric Litwin: I'm going to lump all of the Pete the Cat books in together as one pick. They have a great character, they are repetitive for the little ones, and they are just fun. Not to mention, you can download the author reading them (and singing the songs) from the publisher's web site.

2. "Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don't) by Barbara Bottner: Miss Brooks helps all of the children in Missy's class find books, but Missy just can't find one that she wants to read. Miss Brooks embarks on a quest to find a book for Missy to love. This reminds me that, as a teacher, we all have to search to find that certain something that will reach those hard to reach students.

3. "Jack's Talent" by Maryann Cocca-Leffler: On the first day of school, all of the students in Jack's class are sharing something they are good at, but he doesn't share any of their talents. He's convinced that he doesn't have any special talent. At the end, Jack learns that he does have a special talent, it's just not what he expected. I use this book to illustrate that each of them is an important part of our classroom community and has something special to contribute, no matter how small.

4. "Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians" by Jackie Mims Hopkins: This twist on the classic "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" story is used to illustrate to students how to find "Just Right" books. I find myself coming back to this book throughout the year, reminding students how they can find the books that are right for them, all on their own.

5. "Library Mouse" by Daniel Kirk: This is another pick that is essentially a character series. In "Library Mouse", "Library Mouse: A Friend's Tale," and "Library Mouse: A World to Explore", Sam the mouse who lives in the library, shares his love of reading and writing with the children who come to the library. I love to use this book to show my students that ANYONE can be an author.

6. "Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon" by Patty Lovell: Molly Lou Melon has always been taught to be proud of who she is. When she moves to a new school and is bullied, she continues to be proud and confident in who she is. My students learn, through Molly Lou Melon, that they can do anything if they try their best and believe in themselves. This is definitely one that we revisit throughout the year.

7. "Don't Let the Pigeon..." by Mo Willems: This pick includes all of the books in the Pigeon series. The kids love the humor in the interaction between the Pigeon and the readers. The books follow a pattern and allow them to "read" the stories themselves and feel successful as readers from early on.

8. "The Best Story" by Eileen Spinelli: In this story, the narrator is trying to win a contest for writing the best story. Along the way, she gets advice of what makes the "best" story from various members of her family. When it comes right down to it, the "best" story is one that comes from the heart. I love sharing this with my young writers who think that they have to write the same story as their friends. Not everyone has a story about Angry Birds (the hot topic of last year's class) or Princesses in them.

9. "Wemberly Worried" by Kevin Henkes: This is another one of those beginning-of-the-year books. Wemberly is a worrier and really connects with those first graders who are nervous about coming to school (most of them all-day for the first time) and worry about what to expect. This pick is also serving as a representative of all things Kevin Henkes. Put any Kevin Henkes book in my bag on that island, and I'll be happy.

10. "Miss Nelson is Missing!" by Harry Allard: The kids in Miss Nelson's class are misbehaving and taking advantage of the kindness of their teacher. When Miss Nelson suddenly disappears, their substitute is Miss Viola Swamp, who is the opposite of Miss Nelson. The kids learn to behave and appreciate their teacher. My students enjoy this book year after year. It's also a good jumping off point for classroom rule discussions.

I can't wait to read everyone else's "10 for 10" choices and hopefully, find some new favorites!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Classroom Management

As the summer is coming to a close for me, and I'm beginning to think about setting up my classroom for the coming year, my thoughts are drawn to the topic of classroom management. For the first ten years of my teaching career, I didn't really have to have much of a classroom management plan because I was only teaching small groups of students for short periods of time. When I moved into the classroom four years ago, I knew that having a behavioral plan in place, and explicitly expressed to the students, would be a key element in the foundation of my classroom. Each year, as a classroom community, we create the rules of the classroom together. So, the students have a say in the rules and consequences that will help us work and learn smoothly.

I had seen different methods for behavior/classroom management in play at various grade levels in my old school. When I saw the system that is school-wide at my sons' school, I decided to adopt/adapt that one for my classroom. Here is the "Good on Green" wheel.

All students begin their day with their clip on green. As they break one of our classroom rules, they would move to yellow, then with the next infraction to orange, and then red. If they are showing exceptional behavior, they move to blue. At the end of the day, they color a calendar with the color they are on at the end of the day. Additionally, if they have had to move their clip, they have to fill out a reflection sheet stating why their clip was moved and what they could have done differently. They then take these to their parents, who sign them, and they are returned the next day. This is the individual behavior plan that I have used for the last three years.

I also have a whole-class classroom plan that allows the class as a whole to be rewarded for positive behaviors. This is the Reese's Pieces Jar.

When the class, as a whole, has shown positive behaviors (walking through the hallway appropriately, having a good day in Specials, behaving for the substitute, receiving compliments from other teachers, etc.) I will add a handful of Reese's Pieces to the jar. When the jar is full, they get to vote on a whole class prize (pajama day, popsicles, movie, etc.) When it's full and we have our prize, the jar is emptied and we start all over again.

This system has worked well for me. However, I recently got to thinking about the way I use classroom management and behavior plans. I have heard several people talking about how they don't like the clip (or cards) system such as the one I use, while a teacher in my building began using my exact system for her class. I have had students in the past who respond really well to this system. For the most part, though, it has been the same students over and over who get their clip moved, while the rest of the class spends the whole year on green.

My colleague, Deb (Primary Perspective) even mentioned why she doesn't use clips in one of her recent posts. (That Deb, always getting me thinking!) As I've been looking through Pinterest lately, and have seen pin after pin on back-to-school ideas, several have involved classroom management. I know there is no right or wrong answer, but I'm always learning and hoping to grow when it comes to what would be best for me and my students.

So, my question to you is this: What are your thoughts on classroom management and behavior plans? Do you use some kind of visual reminder of where they stand (like clips or cards) or do you rely on individual verbal discussions? Do you have a reward system? I would love to read your thoughts on this topic.