Attention Getters: Classroom Management Series

This post is part of my Classroom Management Series. Click here to read other posts from the series.

When I graduated from college, I worked as a classroom aide for the 1st and 2nd grade level team. There was one first grade teacher who amazed me. The room would be all aflutter with little people chatting and moving and everything else that comes with being 6 years old. And then this teacher would just start talking. She would literally say, "Boys and Girls...(insert whatever she needed to tell them)" and the entire class would freeze, look and listen. Just by talking in a normal tone at a conversation volume. WHAT?

I still don't know what kind of voodoo spell she cast over them to make that magic happen, but I assure you, I have never seen it replicated anywhere or at anytime.
It's just not normal. I gave up trying to figure it out and instead worked on creating an arsenal of attention getters that have the same effect.

My "bag of tricks" includes the following:
  • I say, "1-2-3 eyes on me." They repeat, "1-2 eyes on you."
  • I clap a pattern. They repeat it.
  • I say in a soft voice, "If you can hear me clap once." This is followed with, "If you can hear me stomp once and clap twice." And so on.
However, my go to trick. My numero uno. The key playa-playa in my teaching game is....

Me: "Class"
Them "Yes"

And then there is you. You are either nodding your head in agreement or else you are thinking, "huh?" I'll explain.

The "Class / Yes" thing is from the artist formerly known as Power Teaching. It now goes by the name of "Whole Brain Teaching." I've been using it for 5 years and it is phenomenal. I love all aspects of it, but I especially like the "Class / Yes" attention getter. Check out the video below from a 1st grade classroom to get a sample of what Whole Brain Teaching has to offer and then visit their site.




How do you command attention in your classroom? Leave a comment to share your ideas!


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Transition Signals: Classroom Management Series

This post is part of my Classroom Management Series. Click here to read other posts from the series.

Today's post will endorse an idea that has been around forever.

An idea that has gained popularity because of the Daily 5 book.

An idea that is so simple, yet so wonderful at the same time.

Today I am "chiming in" on wind chimes. I have a whole bag of classroom management tricks up my sleeve (as I'm sure you do too) but this is just a great thing to add to your repertoire of attention seeking methods.

Because, don't we all seek a little attention now and then?

I don't like to use any one method in class all the time. In fact, I have different signals and phrases to signify different things. I do the usual share of clapping patterns. I've been known to shout out, "1-2-3 eyes on me" and wait for my little charges to chorally respond, "1-2 eyes on you." In desperation, I resort to the old "turn out the lights" method. But, for today I want to tell you about the benefits of the wind chime.

It's lovely and it's soothing.

I use it to signal that it is time to clean up an activity and join me in our whole group area (which btw, I ALWAYS assign seats for and you should too). When I swat the chimes the procedure is to become silent, put away whatever was being worked on and quickly transition to the group area. I don't need to talk over people. I don't need to state 50 bazillion times that it is time to clean-up. If someone needs further direction, the classroom is silent and I can speak in my normal tone to instruct them. The thing I love most about the chimes is that they sound lingers before it fades so it isn't a signal that will be missed.

Now is the best time to purchase a set of windchimes too. Stores like Lowe's, Home Depot and garden/pool specialty shops are beginning to wrap up the season and these typically get marked down.

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Organization Tip: Numbering Student Supplies

Thanks to Hurricane Irene, I got a ton of stuff done for school this weekend.

Actually, it wasn't so much Hurricane Irene as it was the hype surrounding the possibility of her blowing through these here parts that motivated me to chip away at the 'ole to do list.

I'll wave my freak flag high and proud and admit to you all that I actually made TWO to do lists. We had the regular weekend to do list and the "things I can do in the event that we lose electricity and/or internet to do list." That is how much I love me some list-making. Anyhow, I took on some of the "no power needed" tasks which I had been putting off because they lack a component of fun.

Although mundane and over the top, I labeled all of my student supplies.

I usually do individual supplies.

Last year I did community supplies.

And I hated it.

Yes, I know "hate" is a strong word, but that's how much I loathed it. In fact, I didn't just hate it. I HATED it!!!! (See that. All caps, with bold font, AND an few exclamation points. That's how I felt about community supplies.)

My friends just didn't care for the supplies the way that they do when they are their very own. Glue sticks were dried out. Crayons were peeled and broken. Colored pencils were sharpened down to a nub. It gave me hives.

This year I am back to the individual supply boxes. There are, however, downfalls that come with having individual supplies. One of which is the petty arguments over who owns what. You've seen it. Two friends bickering because they can't determine who owns the red colored pencil that is 3/8 of an inch longer than the other one. It's bigger and therefore perceived as better and that means they both want it. Which also means you'll need to referee.

So to eliminate that problem. Along with the problem of lost supplies. I label them.

I know what you are thinking...No brainer, right?

Well, I go a step further and label all parts. Instead of just writing a name/number on the box of markers, I write it on each marker AND cap. I also write it on the pencils AND the erasers. I write it on the watercolors AND the brushes. I label the base of the glue stick and the tube which it slides into.

I know what you are thinking. Go ahead and say it. "OCD much?"

I realize it takes anal retentive to a whole new level, BUT there is never a second of time in class wasted mediating an argument over who a crayon belongs to. I never have to pick up the cap of a marker and wonder who will be sobbing because their blue crayola is all dried out the next time we do a project. It's definitely time well spent.

Anytime you can find a way to proactively make your classroom run more efficiently, I feel it is worth putting forth the effort. Our days are so short. We simply don't have time for distractions.

With my OCD labeling, I find that kids don't spend time off task mindlessly peeling crayons or doing that annoying drill a hole in the eraser with a pencil thing because they are accountable for their belongings. It ensures that each child is prepared for each project and not waiting for a tablemate to finish up using a gluestick.

It also makes me happy knowing that those little ones who get giddy over pristine school supplies the same way that I do are able to enjoy a box of items in tip top shape even when spring rolls around.

Have you clicked on my product button over there on the right? If not, check it out. There are a bunch of freebies available on there to help you organize and manage your classroom. :)

Do you do anything over the top in your classroom that you think is well worth the time investment?

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Shoot For the Moon Writing Project.

Earlier today I showed off my Krissy Venosdale inspired bulletin board. I spent a good chunk of today creating a new writing project kit to go with it and just uploaded it to my store.

It includes the following. There are two different graphic organizers to help students brainstorm ideas, select a topic and plan their writing. One guides them to write about their own dreams or goals. The other focuses on why they are a "star." I've included four pages for their published writing project. One has primary ruled lines with a headline, midline and baseline. The other is ruled for intermediate writers. Each has a top page and a second page with stars at the top if needed. There are bright, colorful printables and greyline reproducibles included. They feature Thistlegirl Designs clipart. I can't wait for school to start so that I can jump in with this activity. I am going to display them around the board, but they would also make a wonderful classbook or a nice addition to a writing portfolio. Click here to purchase this product.

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Welcome Board: My Classroom Makeover




Long before the Pinterest craze, I coveted this bulletin board. I don't even know how I found it. I was just wandering through cyberspace one day and stumbled upon Krissy's classroom photos and fell in love. Everything that girl touches is so bright, colorful and creative...three adjectives that when combined together truly make my heart skip a beat.
Anyhow...I so loved her "reach for the moon" board, but since wall space is limited I couldn't justify putting it in my classroom simply for aesthetic purposes (though I secretly wanted to).
BUT...I then realized that it would make a super "Welcome Back" board for the hallway.
AND...since our "mascot" is a rocket, the pieces all fell into place.
I'm also working on a writing activity for the first week of school titled, "Why I'm a Star." I'll display those around the board before the parent open house/info night.
Edited to add: I DID create a writing project to go with it. You can view all of the details here.
Unfortunately, the pictures aren't fantastic because the board sits directly under windows and right next to big doors and it was a very bright morning and I am far too lazy to read the instruction manual on my camera to figure out how to compensate for that, but you get the idea.
I'll snap some better pictures when I go in next week to put the finishing touches on my home-away-from-home.
The stars are all cut from patterned yellow scrapbook paper and have my friends names printed on them.
I added the name on the rocket using stickers that I already had lying around the room.
In an attempt to be the tiniest bit different from the original, I added the boy using my trusty Cricut. I think I need to write our school name on his shirt. He just needs a little somethin'.
Krissy's original board had a very cool lighted rope. Love it.
Cara Carroll recreated the board using a jumprope from Dollar Tree. I think I will go that route too.
I actually made all of the words myself by selecting different fonts, but when I went to Krissy's site to get the link and give her credit, I saw that she so kindly uploaded a printable and directions. I could have used that two days ago, but hopefully you all will be able to take advantage of it. Prepare to be blown away by her site and classroom. She's awesome!
Which is why she is this Friday's...
Click on her blog button to check out her awesomeness...

pinterest


Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Listening Look - classroom management series

This post is part of my Classroom Management Series. Click here to read other posts from the series.

Listening Look

At the start of the year we establish a “Listening Look.” This shows that they are focused on the speaker. In my classroom a listening look includes hands clasped together (so as not to be touching/fidgeting with anything), eyes and ears on the person speaking.
I certainly don’t expect the class to be in this position throughout every lesson and conversation, but instead save it for important messages and guests. For example, if the principal came in to tell them something I would say, “Boys and Girls please stop what you are doing and give Ms. ___ a listening look.”
I also use it to signal heightened importance or to redirect them if it is getting a bit chaotic. It's much nicer to say, "I need a listening look" and have a hush fall across the room than to point out that it's too loud...too crazy...too whatever.
The poster at the top was something I purchased during my very first year of teaching. Boyfriend took residence in 2 states, 4 schools and 8 classrooms before being retired last year. We now create an anchor chart and I use a photo of my actual class sporting the listening look.

It's effective. I like being able to say, "You should look like your picture."

Because on that very first day of school, when the Kodak moment takes place, the kiddos are on their bestest behavior in their finest of clothes. Never will a listening look appear more serious or perfect. It sets the bar high. :)


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Communication Folders - Classroom Management Series

This post is part of my Classroom Management Series. Click here to read other posts from the series.

Working as a team with families is key. It’s important to establish a consistent method of communication for keeping everyone organized. If you do a Google search for “Moose Binders,” you’ll have access to lots of information on communication books. I’ve experimented with several ideas and methods and have found that a pronged pocket folder works best for me.


In my opinion, the binder was too bulky and I didn’t need that much space. I found them awkward to check, cumbersome for the kids, and struggled with where to store them during the day. My teaching partner LOVED them. It really is a matter of personal preference in regards to what you use, but I do think it is important to have some form of communication tool.


  • Decide what type of system will work for you and then figure out where the folders/binders will be stored during the day.

  • Determine how you will check them for notes from home and distribute them at the end of the day. I have the students place them in a pile on my teacher table. I quickly check each folder for notes or dismissal changes. My helper of the day places them into the student mailboxes and let’s me know if any are missing. I check in diretly with those friends to see if the folder was forgotten at home or is in the backpack.


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Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Thursday Folders: For All That "Other Stuff" - classroom management series


This post is part of my Classroom Management Series. Click here to read other posts from the series.

In an attempt to streamline the paperwork that comes home from school, I began using “Thursday Folders” in addition the daily “Communication Folders” (which I plan to post about soon). I use the communication folders to send home corrected work and assessments, my classroom newsletter, permission slips, book orders and homework packets. I use the pages inserted into it to write notes to the parents and they do the same. I use the Thursday folders for everything else. This includes practice work that is not graded, artwork, and fliers that are sent out with all the children (i.e. YMCA schedules, ads for local programs, etc). I find this saves me time from passing them out daily. It helps the parents by not having to deal with unimportant paperwork every single day. It keeps the communication folder uncluttered and makes it last longer.


On Thursdays, I have a student or a parent volunteer place the Thursday Folder into each child’s mailbox. I then have them distribute all of the other papers on top of them. Lastly, the volunteers take the folders out, insert the papers that are on top of the folder into the pocket, and return them to the mailboxes. The students take them home, empty them and return the folder to my Thursday folder bin until the next week.


In the photo above, they are the orange folders. I make them bright so they are hard to lose. I used to send them on Fridays. At the time they were called Friday Folders. However, becoming a parent of a school-aged child made me realize that Friday afternoons translate into "toss the bag aside until Monday morning." So I switched to Thursday and have found that they are returned promptly on Friday mornings.


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Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Silent Reading as Morning Work: A Quiet Start to the Day- classroom management series


This post is part of my Classroom Management Series. Click here to read other posts from the series.

Like many aspects of my classroom, "Morning Work" has been a process of trial and error. Thinking back, I'm almost ashamed that it took me so long to find such a simple solution.
If I was told to name the time of day when the students are the least settled, the most chatty and the least focused it would be a close tie between "first thing in the morning" and "right after lunch/recess." Post-specialists would be a runner-up. The irony of this is that it is during that "first thing in the morning" timeframe that you have the most things to do in a short amount of time and can't devote your undivided attention to the wee ones before you.
They are excited. It's been about 18 hours since they have seen you and your classmates and a lot happens during that time. They have breaking news to share. Maybe they saw an accident on the way to school. Perhaps a tooth fell out or a cat did some funny trick. Maybe they ate chicken for dinner and can't wait to share that earthshattering fact with others.
Early in my career I thought the best thing to do would be to channel those thoughts into journal writing.
Epic fail.
They worked at different paces. Some moved quick. Others appeared to lack a pulse. Many were stressed. Several had chronic cases of, "I don't have anything to write about." In a nutshell it was too open-ended.
So I moved on to what is traditionally known as "bell work."
You know...unfinished work, morning jumpstarts, mad minutes, insert any other type of busy work known to man here.
Again it was a flop.
Because they lacked the independence to follow the directions or legitimately needed assistance. But, I couldn't provide them with assistance because I was taking attendance and checking folders which is why they were doing said task. Plus it felt meaningless.
So then I tried handwriting. We do cursive in third grade and it seemed like a good task to start the day with.
But some were masters of upswings and downcurves while simultaneously chatting the ear off the peers at their table.
Alas I started using the Daily 5 in my classroom. Well, the Daily 5 with my own twists, but the same concept. And I needed to fit in a block for "independent reading."
And just like that it all clicked and I was left scratching my head and thinking, "Why did it take me so long to do something so easy?"
As I mentioned the other day, I have a morning song that I use to get them settled. When it ends they are expected to be at their seats and reading silently. This is magical because:
  • Everyone can do it. Even wee little non-readers can "read the pictures."
  • The expectation is silence so it's easy to keep everyone on task. Plus you can't read and talk so it's a no-brainer.
  • If someone comes in a few minutes late he can hop right in.
  • It provides a quiet environment that allows me to focus my attention on taking attendance and checking folders for dismissal changes and notes which are both very important for safety reasons.
  • It calms the room and gets them ready to start learning.
Because I count this as my 20 minutes of independent reading, I let it go on for that long. This allows me time to do a couple of running records or 1:1 reading conferences each day as well. Win-win!
To execute your morning routine, I highly suggest posting the expectations and reviewing them often. The poster I use is pictured above.
How do you start your day?

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TAKING ATTENDANCE classroom Management Series


This post is part of my Classroom Management Series. Click here to read other posts from the series.
MORNING ROUTINES: TAKING ATTENDANCE

I actually take attendance on my own silently. As the students are getting settled, I go down my class list and visually verify that all of the children are accounted for and submit my attendance online. This allows me to quickly and accurately get the information to the front office. If you teach a primary grade you may want to create an attendance chart to help teach responsibility and name recognition, but I wouldn’t rely on it for record keeping purposes.

Because my friends are unaware that I do this behind the scenes, we "take attendance" as a class at the start of morning meeting. To do so I use a "question of the day." The kids LOVE this activity. It actually goes quite quickly, but it's a way to get everyone contributing right from the start.

I composed 180 questions so that I would have one for each morning. I've organized them all into a Question of the Day Kit (which I just listed on Teachers Pay Teachers for $3.50). The kids get so into this though and start wanting to write their own questions and are so honored when I use one of theirs. The kit includes all of the questions with boxes to check them off as you use them. It also includes a sign to display when you post your Daily Question and printables for the students to record their ideas on.



As with all of my new product releases for this school year...you have the opportunity to receive a free copy. Simply blog about this idea or the product and link back to this post in your post. If you are one of the first five people to leave me a comment with the link to your post, shoot me an email at littlestlearners (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll reply with a copy of it attached.

Want more ideas on how to take attendance? Abby over at The Inspired Apple also posted about this same topic today and included a photo timeline of the evolution of her attendance taking. Her board for this year is nothing short of amazing.


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Classroom Management Series

Today is the first post from the Classroom Management Series. My Teaching Procedures & Routines Workbook provides a comprehensive list of procedures and routines you'll want to plan for, graphic organizers to assist you in mapping out how you'll run your classroom, detailed steps for executing them and making them second nature with your students and a cover for your classroom procedure manual. Throughout this series I'll be explaining the procedures and routines that I use to manage my classroom.
This week I'll be writing about my morning routines. I'll cover things like attendance, lunch count, communication folders and all that good stuff. It's a challenge to get those things done when you have 23 little people wandering around and getting settled.
My answer to that was...
The Morning Soundtrack
There is always a buzz at the start of the day. Students have to put things away. They want to share stories with you. They have tasks to complete to be ready to learn. It can be chaotic. A few years ago I came up with an idea to “calm the chaos” and it has worked great! I have a “morning soundtrack.” As the children enter the classroom, I start the song. They have until the song ends to complete the process of unpacking and getting settled. They become familiar with the songs and anticipate how much time they have. This allows them to pace themselves and our day gets started in a very timely manner. I selected upbeat songs that appeal to kids and are “classroom appropriate.” I bought all the songs through itunes. My “morning soundtrack” includes the following songs (which you can find on youtube if you want to hear them) :
  • Pumpin’ Up the Party - Hannah Montana
  • Start the Party - Camp Rock Soundtrack
  • We Rock - Camp Rock Soundtrack
  • We’re All in This Together - High School Musical Soundtrack
  • Celebrate You - Corbin Bleu
I play a different one each day of the week. They are fun, upbeat, kid-appropriate and provide just enough time to take care of business and get settled.

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