Tightening Up

I CANNOT believe that we are already in the 4th quarter of the year.  Well, really I guess it’s the 8th quarter for some of us, since it’s our second year together! LOL  This time of year brings with it warmer weather (followed by colder weather, then warmer, then maybe some snow or ice, then finally Spring for real!), excitement about being outside more, comfort and ease the comes with having a well established community, and sometimes it brings kiddos who are SO comfortable and at ease with things that they forget the rules and start to act like crazy people.  Ok, not really, but everyone teachers can sometimes get lax and kids quickly take advantage of that.  And so this time of year often also brings with it a tightening up of the procedures and routines, reminders of the rules and lots of reteaching and practicing to help ensure we end the year in the best way we can!

“Tightening up” in Rm. 202 looks a little different than it probably does in some other places, mainly because the structure in my classroom looks different from many others to begin with.  I guess what I mean is that there are a few things that I find it necessary to be totally in charge of, and there are many more others that I leave my kids to decide upon or choose for themselves.  In general, students in my room choose their table seats (they are not assigned and are usually very fluid even throughout a school day); choose their carpet spots and  learning partners (unless I deem it necessary for specific learning goals to assign them); make decisions both about how they learn and show their learning; and they are in charge of much of how our classroom runs on a given day (like lunch count, attendance, cleaning, making announcements, using each other as resources for info and answers, etc.).  Most of the time, this works seamlessly, and we all spend our day happily working and learning together, supporting our friends, challenging each other, offering kind words of encouragement and taking care of each others’ needs.  It ‘s a beautiful thing.

And then days like yesterday happen.  While I know that no kid is perfect, and that everyone has their moments and makes mistakes, our Wednesday was a kind of day which I have not seem in a very long time.  Perhaps never with this class even.  Their behavior was screaming out to me that what we are doing in our room right now is not working.  We were loud, unfriendly, unproductive, messy, disruptive, disrespectful, slow…all words that do not describe a healthy, happy learning environment.

So what was I to do?  I certainly could have gotten really annoyed, mad, frustrated, had hurt feelings, yelled, etc., but obviously none of those options made sense.  They wouldn’t have been good for me or for my friends, and they wouldn’t have solved our problems that had happened during the day.  So instead, I decided to tighten up the reins a little bit.  Since they were showing me that right now they couldn’t handle choice and freedom, I’d give them less until they could prove again that they could.  Makes sense, right?

This meant a couple of new things, then, happened on Thursday.  First of all, kiddos had new table spots (ok, when they had assigned table spots to begin with–which was new) that were chosen by me.  They also had assigned carpet spots–again chosen by me–based on who they could best work with and be quiet and respectful next to.  As we started our day together, Evan made another suggestion that would end up being very helpful to us.  Let me back up for a second–at the end of Wednesday, I drew a graph of what our behavior looked like over the course of the day.  It looked like this:

IMG_0965-min

Evan’s idea was that we draw a behavior-over-time graph like that at the end of every day so that we could see how we were doing.  Even better than that, Emily suggested that instead we should keep track of our day DURING the day.  Otherwise we would have a hard time changing the way our graph looked; knowing in the moment that we were off track would allow us to fix things.  SUPER IDEAS friends!

One more thing that was a part of our tightening up plan was a little bit of a whole-class  behavior chart system with Xs for misbehavior (based on expectations we already have in place in our classroom) and a reward for friends that fit a certain criteria.  Basically everyone starts with the reward, and it’s up to you to make sure you don’t lose it.  We put together a chart where everyone has a label, and you get an “X” for choices that do not line up with our classroom expectations and Road Rules.  IF you have a certain number (or less) by the end of the time period (which will change as we go along), you can participate in our reward (this will also change with every period).  This first go-round, the Xs is 3 and the time frame was from Thursday morning to Friday afternoon (2 days).  The next chunk starts over on Monday and will go for more days or have less Xs (haven’t decided yet).

So…we put our new things in place and went through our days Thursday and Friday and kept track of our behavior over time.  Here’s what our charts looked like:

AMAZING, right?  One thing I love about Behavior-Over-Time graphs is that you have to justify why you’re putting each dot where it is.  Kids had to really reflect on our choices and evaluate whether our behavior counted as + or -.

At the end of the day on Friday we talked about why we thought that our last two days had been so much improved over what had happened earlier in the week.  Some friends of course pointed out our new reward system, some said it was our spots, but Sara mentioned that she thought it was our system AND our BOT graphs; being able to SEE how we were doing was super helpful in keeping those choices positive.  I agree, friend. 🙂

What stories can you tell about “tightening up?”  Does 4th quarter bring new procedures and routines for you and your kiddos?  How does the end of the year look different than the beginning?  Please comment and let us know!  Here’s to another great week starting tomorrow!

Robinson Road Rules

This post is part information, part reminder.  I figured that since we’ve been talking so much about respect (or the lack thereof) in our classroom lately, I’d remind us of the Road Rules that govern the behavior expectations in our school.

At Robinson, we have many “universals” that everyone everywhere knows and uses.  One of them is an attention-getting signal.  If an adult needs the attention of the kiddos they are working with–remember, anyone, anywhere: teacher, teaching assistant, principal, custodian, etc–they say “May I have your attention please?” while they hold up their hand and count backwards from 4 to 0.  Why 4 to 0, you ask?  Because that coordinates with another universal–our voice levels.

Again, this is an “everyone, everywhere” kind of thing–these signs can be seen everywhere in our school from the cafeteria to classrooms and library to hallways.  There are also signs around that designate which voice level should be used in each area.  It really helps us all to be on the same page as far as expectations, and is really working.   The hallway, for example, is a LEVEL 1 zone, and so the rule is “If you need to talk, you need to whisper.”  This goes for everyone, even teachers.  That’s really hard sometimes, for my kids and for me!

Then the overarching expectations for the whole school are called the Robinson Road Rules.  There are four of them:

Having this framework as the foundation for how we do things at our school is so helpful to both teachers and students alike.  It enables every adult in our school to support every learner because we’re all speaking the same language!  Kids know the language and use it, and since it’s everywhere it’s predictable–there are no surprises or questions about what to do or how to do it.  The rules are the rules and everyone knows them. 🙂

What expectations do you have at your school?  Have you tried building-wide universals? As a parent, what do you hear your kids saying about the Robinson Road Rules?