Monday, August 27, 2012

ESOL Freebie

Though I know many of my readers are mainstream teachers looking for tips and resources to help their students master key language and concepts, I hope that many of you are also dedicated ESOL teachers. Most of my items can be used in almost any classroom in grades 4-8, but this one is specifically for the ESOL teachers!

I created this poster to hlep my students remember that we use our whole bodies to learn ESOL. It's a cute little poster that reminds them about being good listeners, and speakers, in the form of a class pledge. And it's yours....for just $1!

Just click the button below to download this poster, laminate, and hang in your classroom!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

More on classroom management

I've been giving a lot of thought to classroom management this year. I know the groups of ESOL students I'll be working with this year can be a difficult group. This will be a huge change from last year's 4th grade ESOL students- they were so well behaved that I didn't even have to "manage" the classroom! They learned the rules quickly from the get-go and never pushed them. However, I think this group might challenge me, so I've been feeling the need to find a more specific system to put in place.

With that in mind, I've been wondering what effective techniques I can use to help manage behavior with this group. I've already seen some of them at work during my lunch duty in the cafeteria. Tomorrow, I begin pulling students to my classroom, so today I spent creating a rules poster and a consequence and reward poster. Then, quite by accident this evening, I stumbled across the idea of Whole Brain Teaching. My posters are going in the trash tomorrow!

I am beyond thrilled, and before I begin pulling my students tomorrow, I will be making a NEW rules poster, along with a new consequences/rewards poster to fit the Whole Brain Teaching System. I've already created some on the computer, but I'm not sure if our poster printer is up and working yet. I'll go in a little early so I can have some handwritten ones to hold me over until it is!

Here's the basic run down of the system:

There are five classroom rules....
  1. Follow directions quickly
  2. Raise your hand to speak
  3. Raise your hand to leave your seat
  4. Make smart choices
  5. Keep your dear teacher happy!
You start the system at level one (sort of like a video game), not revealing the later levels until they need to be implemented. To make the system as effective as possible, you want to spend as much time at each level as possible.

The first level is The scoreboard. It is pretty simple- for elementary students you have a smiley and a frowny. Each time the class as a whole is following directions, they get a smiley. Each time someone is not following directions, the class gets a frowny. Tally the points each week, month, or in my case (since I only have 30 minutes twice a week with my students) quarterly, and offer the students a reward like a party, outdoor time, game time, or iPod time. For older students, instead of a frowny and a smiley, you have student points (when the class is following directions) and teacher points (when someone breaks a rule). When the students get a point, the get a "one second party" to go "whoo hoo!!". When they get a frowny or the teacher gets a point, they get a "mighty groan" to go "oohhh noooo!", then it is back on task!
I'm thrilled because this seems like a relatively simple, engaging, and motivating classroom management system. I'm implementing this in my classroom tomorrow and I'm so excited about it. I will give you updates and tell you more about the levels as we move through them. In the meantime, go to the Whole Brain Teaching Website to learn more!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Classroom Management- From Day 1

Several years ago, when I was a first year teacher, and teaching middle school, I learned the importance of good classroom management, and how important it was to establish rules and procedures from day 1. If you don't set the tone on the first day, you'll find yourself up a creek with a crappy paddle!

The first year, I was not that much older than many of my students, and I thought a friendly rapport would be the way to go- with rules like "Laugh with everyone, but laugh at no one". Now I'm laughing at myself!

By winter break, I was miserable, stressed beyond my limits- and ready to quit. Over the holiday, I made a firm decision that things were going to change in my classroom. I worked hard to set up some more specific rules for my classroom, with more specific consequences regarding when warnings, referrals, removal, and detention would take place. I also set forth specific rewards, like iPod days or outdoor time. My students could see the change in my attitude as I presented the new classroom norms when we returned from the break.

It took some work that year, but my students learned that I was not a nice person when learning time was disrupted. They also learned that I was the most fun teacher they had when they worked hard, did what I asked, followed the rules and treated one another with respect.

The next year, I set up my system from day 1. Now, years later, I'm very firm and strict with my rules, and my students know I mean business. If I ask them to do something, they know I want it done right away, and I won't ask again. They also are clear on the rules, rewards, and consequences.

Sometimes it takes several weeks to get students used to the system- that's ok! One year, I had a 7th/8th grade mixed ESL LA class that struggled with the system at the beginning of the year, but I did not give in. I knew we had finally made it one day when I sat for over an hour without saying anything to the students (other than hello) after they entered the classroom. They came in, went to their desks, took out their materials, and started working. They knew what they needed to work on, and they were so engaged, they didn't even talk amongst themselves (I do allow quiet discussion if it doesn't interfere with work). I finally broke the silence to tell them how proud I was, and that we would take Friday off for some much-needed soccer time!

Over the years, my system has been tweaked and changed, but it is still the same basic system that I started with that first year. If you're a new teacher, the best piece of advice I can offer you is this: find a system that works for you and your students, implement it, and stick to it. Also make sure that parents and students are clear on the rules, rewards and consequences related to your system. You'll be glad you did!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A new year- a fresh slate

One of my favorite things about being a teacher is that you can reinvent your teaching style and classroom each year- essentially giving you the chance to "start over" and better yourself from year-to-year.

Each year, I try to set a few goals for myself about the things that I will do differently or improve upon from next year. Sometimes, my "do differentlys" are great successes, sometimes they are miserable failures. I also like to set goals for the year to help me keep on track.

My goals for this year:
  • Do more to involve my ESOL parents in the school and their child's education
  • Improve my questioning techniques during instruction
  • Do a better job of working with my grade level team to plan interdisciplinary instruction integrated around what my students are doing in the mainstream classroom
  • Get the ESOL testing accommodations forms completed before the last minute!
Based on my personal reflections and formal evaluations from last year, these are a few of the goals that I wanted to work on this year.  What are some of your goals for this year? In what ways will you reinvent your teaching style or better yourself? Let me hear from you in the comments!