Saturday, August 27, 2011

What an incredible week in first grade! My firsties are so cute, smart, and creative. I can already tell that we are going to accomplish so much this year and have a great time along the way.  It is a world of difference from kindergarten. This year my students came in knowing how to "do" school. We were able to get started right away, we just jumped into our routines and curriculum and made a splash. I am so impressed with how Whole Brain Teaching impacts my classroom. By the end of the first day my students knew all of my rules and the hand gestures that go with them. I was able to say to them Class (Yes), rule # 2 and they would say the rule (in chorus) while using the gestures. It was so beautiful. When a student momentarily forgot the rule about asking permission to leave his seat I  just said "so and so, remember rule number 3" and he did the gesture and said the rule to himself and went back to his seat to raise his hand. This happened over and over again. I never had to raise my voice to get the attention of my students. All I had to do was say "Class" and they would respond with "YES". It is so simple, yet powerful. I guess that is why they used to call it POWER Teaching.
I am really happy that I did not fall into the usual pattern of handing out tangible rewards for expected behaviors. My go to management trick used to be giving skittles or some other candy to my students as rewards for good behavior or a job well done. In my heart I never liked the idea of doing this for a few reasons. The first reason is that it establishes a model of unhealthy choices -- "when I do something good I get to have something sweet to eat." The second reason that I never felt comfortable with handing out candy as a reward is that it teaches the students that "when I do what I am supposed to do I will always get something in return." Life does not work that way. We should do our tasks and follow social protocols to the best of our abilities because that is the best way to live in society. In short, giving out candy and other tangible rewards (as a policy) sends the wrong message and I am so glad that I never have to resort to that way of running a classroom again. FREEDOM!!!
If you are wondering what I did instead of giving out candy I will tell you. I used the scoreboard. On my white board I drew a T-Chart with a happy face on one side and a sad face on the other. I simply told my students that if they have more happy faces than sad faces they would get to play a game at the end of the day (fun academic review). They totally bought into this idea and loved the fact that they could shout "OH YEAH" every time they got a happy face and could groan loudly when they got a sad face. If I saw that the students were making smart choices (rule #4) and on task they got a happy face. If any of the students were not following the rules or if they were not participating they got a sad face. This system is based on a collective effort. They all benefit from each other's successes and are effected when someone strays from the rules. This creates an environment of Positive Behavior Support, because the students are encouraging each other to do well. My class is not a class of Teacher vs. Student it is a class where everyone works together to accomplish a collective goal: Success.
I was able to set up many of the WBT strategies this week including Teach/Okay, Ten Finger "Woo" and It's Cool. I will be sure to write about those strategies in future posts because they too are amazing. If you are interested or curious about Whole Brain Teaching go check it out, its FREE!

Here are the promised pictures of my finished classroom. Remember, I did not spend any money this year to get my room ready. 
FACE board for reading strategies

From Giraffes Can't Dance our first book study of the year.

Smart Board, Calendar Math wall, Letters, and Meeting area.

Math wall for math vocabulary and symbols.

Teacher corner for work groups, student computers, science wall and my Ginger Bread Man Collection.

Cubbies, birthday wall, student work table, and behind the green curtains are telephones for partner reading.

Language Arts wall with High Frequency words, Vocabulary words, Book/Author study info, Reading Theme and books. The book shelf is very messy after the first week. Next week  I will have to spend time establishing procedures for "checking" out classroom books and keeping the area clean. :)

Class schedule, bathroom, and Ms. King's sink. The students use the bathroom sink to wash their hands and the water fountain just outside of our door to drink from. Also they are allowed to keep water bottles in their cubbies. This is my effort to not get sick this year, we shall see.

Turn it in baskets. The pink one is for notes and pictures that the students make for me.

Table buckets. One side is for reading books and the other side is work work folders, pencils and crayons. They caught on so quickly and each day they stayed organized and clean. Hope that lasts!

Portable Center Buckets

Class rules from Whole Brain Teaching

Score Board

Class rules and WBT signs. My Ginger Bread Man Collection.

Our Colorful Caterpillar helps us count the school days.

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